protest

Ryan Reaves drops feud with Evander Kane to focus on ‘much bigger cause’

As one of the most fearsome fighters in the NHL, Ryan Reaves is no stranger to conflict. Yet, in recent times, he’s putting aside one conflict (his feud with Evander Kane) while dealing with a more complicated “internal” conflict (supporting protests following George Floyd’s death, while grappling with his family’s background in law enforcement).

Reaves’ background really is pretty mind-blowing, and practically demands his nickname become “The Lone Reaver.”

Let’s unpack the backgrounding of the Reaves – Kane beef, but then get into that “internal conflict.”

Reaves puts aside conflict with Kane

Reaves told Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he contacted Kane following Kane co-heading the Hockey Diversity Alliance. If their feud didn’t already seem petty, it certainly looks that way in comparison to what is going on in the U.S. and around the world.

“I spoke to Evander and told him I want to jump in on this powerful message,” Reaves said. “We have to put aside our differences on the ice and come together for a much bigger cause.”

To review, the Kane – Reaves beef goes back. In fact, it goes back longer than I personally remembered.

Back in February 2017, then-Sabres forward Kane might have snuck an elbow on then-Blues enforcer Reaves.

Things really ratcheted up as the two took part in a brewing rivalry between the Sharks and the Golden Knights. The two traded trash talk and fought during that memorable 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Despite quite a bout, Reaves told reporters that he didn’t really gain respect for Kane. (Kane, meanwhile, insulted Reaves’ perceived lack of hockey skills.)

While a fight didn’t do the trick — and, sometimes a bout really does build rapport (just ask Michael Jordan and … Steve Kerr?) — Reaves is paying Kane some respect now.

And, yet, Reaves’ conflict brews in a different way.

The conflict for Reaves includes an incredible family legacy

Graney’s column on Reaves is definitely worth a read, though some will understandably cringe at seeing “both sides” in the headline. But it turns out that Reaves seeing both sides is valid, and also a route to understand how extraordinary Reaves’ story really is.

To start, Ryan Reaves’ father Willard was a sergeant in Winnipeg following a CFL and brief NFL career. Willard provided some fascinating insight on the differing forces pulling at Ryan Reaves.

“(Law enforcement) in our family dates a long, long ways back,” Willard Reaves said to Graney. “We have several who chose this as (a profession). Because of this, Ryan can see all of this from both sides. He’s mixed race (his mother Brenda is Caucasian). He can analyze and internalize from either point. He will come to his conclusions. He will deal with the facts and what he sees and hears.

“And there is internal conflict.”

As it turns out, Willard wasn’t kidding about the family’s roots going a long ways back in law enforcement. Ryan Reaves is apparently the great-great-grandson of Bass Reeves, aka the possible inspiration for “The Lone Ranger.”

Reaves’ great-great grandfather: Bass Reeves, possible “Lone Ranger” inspiration

Ryan Reeves great-great grandson of Bass Reeves Lone Ranger
via Wikimedia Commons/public domain

Whether Bass Reeves was the inspiration for “The Lone Ranger” or not, he was a figure of such stature to earn his own statue. This AP article by John Lovett touches on the high points of a life that was against-all-odds:

Born into slavery in Crawford County; escaped servitude during the Civil War; possibly fought for the Union with the Keetoowah Cherokees; survived dozens of gunfights riding for Judge Isaac C. Parker as one of the first black U.S. deputy marshals west of the Mississippi; acquitted of murder for the death of his cook; arrested his son, Benjamin, for shooting his wife, Castella, in a jealous rage. These are just a few of the incredible stories of a man who hunted down men nobody else could capture.

A life like this lends itself to Paul Bunyan-style tall tales. Also via Lovett:

Reeves was also known to love racing his sorrell horse, and would go to extremes to serve writs. Once, he walked 28 miles dressed as a beggar and fooled two men and their mother into letting him stay the night. The men with a $5,000 bounty on their heads woke up in handcuffs.

All things considered, it’s understandable that Reaves told Graney “I do kind of toe both lines” between understanding the perspectives of protesters and police. Considering that Reaves wants to align with (former?) foe Kane, it sounds like he’s ultimately invested in doing the right thing.

In other Reaves news …

The Golden Knights signed Reaves to a two-year contract extension. It’s worth $1.75M per year.

More current and former NHL players speak up about racism:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blake Wheeler on his tweets supporting U.S. protests, Jets vs. Flames

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler couldn’t accept staying silent as protesters reacted to the tragic death of George Floyd, including in Minnesota, where he grew up. So Wheeler spoke up with heartfelt tweets, sharing his support for protesters, while condemning “senseless violence and racism.” Wheeler continued that conversation with Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.”

Wheeler on tweets supporting protesters, shares ways to help

“By staying silent, you’re not helping” Wheeler said.

With that in mind, Wheeler pleads that as many people should speak up as possible. (You can see some of the responses from NHL players here. P.K. Subban stands out, in particular, by combining with the NHL to make a $100K donation.)

Wheeler told Tirico that, for the most part, responses have been positive to his message. Granted, Wheeler admits that as a busy father, he doesn’t necessarily have time to “comb” through every response. Which … good for him, really.

Going further, Wheeler followed up that tweet with an Instagram message detailing how he’s been donating to various causes.

View this post on Instagram

Sam and I have been using this time to educate ourselves and our kids. We’ve been reading, watching, and listening. There are a ton of great organizations out there that could use our help right now. Here are a few that my family has supported over the past week: The Official George Floyd Memorial Fund through @gofundme , Neighbors United Funding Collaborative through @givemn which helps the cleanup and rebuild of the Hamline Midway Neighborhood in Minneapolis, American Civil Liberties Union @aclu_nationwide , Minnesota Freedom Fund @mnfreedomfund , and @visitlakestreet which helps in the rebuild and cleanup of Lake St in Minneapolis. @barackobama shared some great educational pieces that we are reading through and everyone should check out if you can https://www.obama.org/anguish-and-action/ #blackouttuesday

A post shared by Blake Wheeler (@26blakewheeler) on

David Yu shares links for some of Wheeler’s recommendations, if that makes it easier:

Wheeler on Flames vs. Jets

Tirico and Wheeler also talked hockey, naturally.

When asked about the Jets facing the Flames in the Qualifying Round, Wheeler notes that the two teams only faced off once during the regular season. To make things even less familiar, Wheeler also points out that the only game against Calgary was an outdoor contest, making it almost seem like an “exhibition.”

So, the Jets didn’t get the greatest feel for the Flames. Then again, with how disruptive the pandemic ended up being, such data would only be so useful anyway, right?

(Interestingly, Wheeler mentioned that he remembers Flames interim head coach Geoff Ward as an assistant with the Bruins. Kudos to Wheeler for remembering his Bruins days, honestly.)

Maybe most interestingly, Wheeler told Tirico that he’s one of the lucky players who’s been able to skate. Wheeler, 33, has been able to link up with Adam Oates for some training in Florida.

Might that help Wheeler gain a stride or two on others hoping to get in game shape? It couldn’t hurt. Check out that interview in the video above this post’s headline.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Demonstrators protest unilingual coach outside Bell Centre

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There’s a game going on in Montreal at the Bell Centre tonight. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadians are battling it out on Hockey Night in Canada for some much needed points in the Eastern Conference playoff race. But outside the building, there were a few hundred protesters who cared more about the coach behind the bench than the team on the ice. More specifically, they cared more about the language the coach speaks when addressing players and the media.

Mouvement Quebec francais president Mario Beaulieu released a statement to accompany Saturday evening’s demonstration. Via the Montreal Gazette: “The Montreal Canadiens management does not respect the status of French as Quebec’s official language,” Beaulieu said. “The music played in the Bell Centre is English. All announcements made in the arena are bilingual. There are only two or three francophone players left on the team. And now they have named a head coach who doesn’t speak a word of French. Not even ‘Bonjour’.”

Anyone who thought this language debate had cooled was sadly mistaken. As if Randy Cunneyworth’s job wasn’t difficult enough as he tried to turn things around for the mediocre Habs, he has hundreds of people outside the arena protesting because he doesn’t speak the right language. To some of the folks on the street, winning is secondary to the organization representing Quebecois culture.

General manager Pierre Gauthier has already publically apologized. Owner Geoff Molson (who is now tweeting in both languages) has already said that the head coaching position will be re-evaluated at the end of the season. Still, as long as Cunneyworth is behind the bench, there will be those who will publically voice their displeasure.