The NHL Gets Woke

The National Hockey League’s COVID-delayed playoffs began in earnest on Sunday. After months without hockey, I was keen to watch the best of the best compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup, the greatest trophy in all of sports.

But I was not permitted simply to enjoy the return of hockey—a sport on which I was reared and have played since I was 2 years old.

Instead, I discovered I had tuned in to a woke seminar.

While all the players ringed center ice, the stadium announcer’s voice boomed out a series of messages over the loudspeakers:

“We skate for you. We skate for the cup. We skate for better days. And today and always, we skate for the right reasons.”

And at that, suddenly the words “END RACISM” were emblazoned on the jumbotron. Ringing the arena on smaller screens was #WeSkateForBlackLives. OneRepublic’s “Better Days” played over it all.

It was just as Orwellian as it sounds. In what sense do professional hockey players “skate for black lives”? How does hockey, whether played well or poorly (or at all), “end racism” or bring about “better days”? Does the act of playing hockey “fix” racism?

Obviously it’s all nonsense. This was little more than ritualistic, saccharine, impotent (and very cheap) virtue-signaling by the NHL, done in the desperate hope that the antiracist mob might devour it last.

But it wasn’t over. Not even close.

The announcer then introduced Matt Dumba, a defenseman for the Minnesota Wild, who walked to center ice wearing a “Black Lives Matter” hoodie and brandishing a microphone.

My stomach lurched. I prayed he wasn’t about to do what I feared he would and reveal once and for all that my beloved sport finally had been colonized by fun-hating ideologues brimming with foolish, utopian schemes masquerading beneath the banners of “social justice” and “racial equality.” Would I be forced to pay respect to the NHL, now a mere husk of itself—a mouthpiece and force multiplier for modern-day white-people-hating racial essentialists?

Sadly, yes.

Even so, this event—Dumba’s speech (whose throat-clearing opening lines have been omitted for brevity’s sake)—is worth exploring in some depth because it’s not every day that we are presented with plainspoken “antiracist” rhetoric; usually, it’s mindless sloganeering designed to bludgeon dissenters into submission and eventual, artificial agreement by eschewing totally the art of persuasion, the coin of the realm in a self-governing republic such as ours.

“During this pandemic, something unexpected, but long overdue, occurred: The world woke up to the existence of systematic racism, and how deeply rooted it is within our society.” Attention citizens! The correct term is now “systematic racism.” Pay no attention to the fact that just five minutes ago, it was “systemic racism.” Such petty differences are, to these anointed wokesters, mere details; they are easily brushed aside by those who trod upon the righteous path to The Right Side of History.

Then, brimming with cloying sentimentality:

For those unaffected by systematic racism, or unaware, I’m sure that some of you believe that this topic has garnered too much attention during the last couple months. But let me assure you: It has not. Racism is a man-made creation, and all it does is deteriorate from our collective prosperity. Racism is everywhere. Racism is everywhere. And we need to fight against it. On behalf of the NHL and the Hockey Diversity alliance, we vow and promise to stand up for justice, and fight for what is right.

Protip: If you repeat things more slowly for emphasis, they become true! Take notes, Whitey.

“I know first hand, as a minority playing the great game of hockey, the unexplainable and difficult challenges that come with it. The Hockey Diversity Alliance and the NHL want kids to feel safe, comfortable, and free-minded every time they enter an arena.”

It was here that the cameraman made the unfortunate choice to zoom in on Malcolm Subban, a black man and one of the goalies for the Chicago Blackhawks. Can’t you just see how it went down? Some drone with a Wesleyan bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in African American studies and the pancaked soul of a middle manager perked up in a brainstorming session and said, “How about—and just hear me out here—we zoom in on a black guy while another black guy is talking because they both think and act and feel exactly the same? That’s progressive, right?”

Our woke overlords fail to realize how insanely cringy and grossly dehumanizing this kind of behavior is. Why should we assume that Subban, just because of the color of his skin, agrees with Dumba’s speech? Are Subban’s experiences the same as Dumba’s? How would we know that—just because of the color of his skin?

When you stop and consider the message the camera’s zoom in on Subban is sending, you start to realize how, well, racist it is. You have to give yourself permission to think it, though, because that natural recognition process has been beaten out of us by ceaseless propaganda pumped out from the legacy media, K-12 education, the universities, and Hollywood. Don’t worry, no one will know you did this thinking unless you say something. So your job is still safe.

And after all that, we still have yet to assess one more sweet nugget of ridiculous gobbledygook: “I know first hand, as a minority playing the great game of hockey, the unexplainable and difficult challenges that come with it.”


If the “challenges” are “unexplainable,” how can Dumba accurately identify them—even to himself? And even if, by some miracle, he does know what these so-called unexplainable challenges are, how would he tell us about them so that they could be fixed (if that’s even what he and his comrades really want)? And again, to reiterate, why should any other black person necessarily agree with any of that? Because all black people think the same?

Dumba finished up as pathetically as he began:

So I stand in front of you today on behalf of those groups and promise you that we will fight against justice [sic]—[rather,] we will fight against injustice, and fight for what is right. I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and hockey fans. Because black lives matter. Breonna Taylor’s life matters.

Hockey is a great game, but it could be a whole lot greater. And it starts with all of us.

Hilariously, Dumba’s Freudian slip says it all. These people are not fighting for justice. How could they be, when our founding charter, the Declaration of Independence, identifies justice as the moral equality of all people and government by consent, not a racial caste system and government by force?

Further, nobody has said black lives don’t matter. Those who oppose the Marxist Black Lives Matter organization do so because it destructively inflames racial grievances and strikes at the core of Western civilization: the nuclear family, organized religion, private property, and civic friendliness.

At the close of the speech, Matt Dumba, a Canadian, knelt for the “Star-Spangled Banner”—becoming the first NHL player to do so—but he promptly stood up again for his own country’s anthem (because apparently “systematic racism” is a uniquely American problem; it’s funny how that works).

People watch sports to come together and escape rancorous partisan battles. The NHL has sold that, its noble purpose and birthright as a professional hockey league, for a mess of pottage: cheap, ignorant, racialized hatred.

And we’re all worse off for it.

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About Deion A. Kathawa

Deion A. Kathawa is an attorney who hails from America’s heartland. He holds a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He is a 2021 alumnus of the Claremont Institute’s John Marshall Fellowship. Subscribe to his “Sed Kontra” newsletter.

Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images

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