The focus will be on the task at hand when the Islanders take the ice in Toronto for Saturday’s 7 p.m. rescheduled Game 3 against the Flyers, but Friday was a day on which the players’ attention primarily remained trained on the world outside the bubble in which they have been cocooned for more than a month.
“I think we all know that us sitting out for two days is not going to end racism,” Scott Mayfield said via Zoom on the second day the bubble rinks in Toronto and Edmonton remained dark because of the NHLPA job action. “But what it does do is, it brings dialogue, it brings awareness, and it enables us to look in the mirror and talk to each other. That’s what it started.
“But it’s all about action now and it’s all about making sure that we actually do things to combat the issues in our game and in society.”
It is about action that Mayfield, the 27-year-old native of St. Louis, intends to take as quickly as possible.
“I’ve already reached out to our community relations director just about setting up things outside the rink, what we can do, starting to brainstorm ideas, going to minority communities, stuff like that,” said the defenseman. “The platform in hockey is probably the biggest thing.
“Just hearing stories of young players that don’t feel safe, they don’t feel included, that’s something that just needs to stop. That just makes me sick because hockey is a place for everyone. It’s a place where everyone should feel safe, everyone should enjoy the game, love the game and love going to the rink, so I think that’s another focus.
“As professional athletes, we have a platform. We need to use it in a positive way,” Mayfield said. “You see plenty of people use their platform in a negative way. This is a time for positivity.”
The focus has been largely inward for NHL players, who responded, first to the NBA wildcat strike that began Wednesday afternoon when the Bucks refused to take the floor for a scheduled playoff game, and then to the concerns of members of color within their own NHLPA ranks.
There is far more to this than just the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday or the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25.
“There’s really no playbook for this kind of thing,” Matt Martin said. “I think we’re learning and educating ourselves on the fly here and trying to do what’s right. I think everyone in this bubble is for equality and we just want everyone to feel welcome, not only in the game of hockey, but in life and feel safe in their environment.
“As soon as we got word that some of the guys in [Edmonton] were uncomfortable with playing, we obviously wanted to stand behind our minorities and stand behind the guys that are going through a tough time right now and didn’t feel comfortable going out there.”
Martin, among others, was preparing to join a conference call with the Hockey Diversity Alliance scheduled for late Friday afternoon.
“The HDA is going to kind of give us what their plan is and what their ideas are moving forward,” the winger said. “I don’t have a whole lot of information in terms of what the plan is, but I plan on listening.
“As I said earlier, I think everyone in this bubble is looking for progress and looking for inclusiveness. Hopefully we can come up with a plan not only in hockey but in the entire world and figure this stuff out and move forward because things obviously aren’t good right now.”
Barry Trotz was eloquent speaking to the subject on Thursday morning, before NHL games had been postponed. His words were no less powerful on Friday.
“I think [my role] is probably listening, trying to understand and be supportive while trying to be in sort of like a parent role,” the coach said. “Listening is a skill and this is a good time for everyone to listen because there’s stuff in this world that everybody pretends they understand but they don’t understand.
“So it is time to listen and support.”
Again, though. Dialogue, talking and listening must be followed by deeds. Trotz addressed that.
“If you know anything about the group of young men that we have, they’re very passionate about being part of the community,” he said. “Every person on our team is passionate about something. I’m passionate about the special needs community because I have a special needs son. So my passion is there and always get support from the Islanders.
“A player, or another player may be passionate about something else and I know the teammates support them and the community supports them. They want to make the community better, so I can guarantee you right now, listening to some of the dialogue of the players, they are all in on trying to be the solution not only for the issues at hand but other issues that are maybe not getting as much focus.”
“I think you’re looking at them trying to do the right thing at the right time.”