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Wednesday’s FTB: NHL attempts victory lap, fails spectacularly

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and some potential Leafs top-six lines?

Chicago Blackhawks v Dallas Stars
DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 23: Tyler Seguin #91 of the Dallas Stars on the bench before a game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the American Airlines Center on February 23, 2020 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Tyler Seguin has been one of the few non-black NHL players to actively lend his voice and his platform for anti-black racism in society. He’s done a lot of good work communicating with fans who don’t understand and going to rallies in Dallas. Tyler Seguin has been a good ally.

So when the NHL compiled a bunch of his tweets, instagram pictures, and comments, made a 45 second slideshow, and threw some inspirational music over it with the caption “Listen. Learn.” it took people for a real spin.

There were many things wrong with the video the NHL shared. Hemal Jhaveri from USA Today, I think, summed the whole thing up really well in her article, which I highly recommend you read. A quote:

“The video is some weird, low quality mash-up of still images and tweets that don’t talk about the issue of police brutality or center Black lives or even address racism in general. All the video does is….praise Tyler Seguin for showing up and marching?

‘Look at Tyler Seguin, look at him!’ one person glowingly tweeted. ‘This is a man!’”

And that’s where the NHL’s video misses every mark imaginable. It doesn’t talk about the issue of police brutality, the pictures used failed to address racism at all, and yes, boiled down to a word, it’s praise for Seguin.

Why is that bad? For one, the NHL is ignoring black voices like J.T. Brown who protested police brutality in 2017, has been very vocal online for years, and marched in Minnesota with his family. If the NHL social media team wanted to show where their league stands, what are they doing pushing aside the black voices that have been pushing for change for years?

By making their video, the NHL wanted to pat themselves on the back and say their (mostly) white sport is being a good ally. And by making their video, they proved exactly the opposite. They showed that they care more for their PR and image than what is being fought for. They showed that they are a white organization where only those voices matter. Because if they thought their fans would listen to Brown, or Evander Kane, or P.K. Subban, they would have picked them.

They basically turned Tyler Seguin into an instagram model at a rally.

It’s a real shame that Seguin has been thrown in the middle of this, because the work he’s doing to learn and to influence is a good thing. It’s unfortunate that his work is being co opted and abused by the league’s social media team.

As of the summer of last year, the NHL social media team is entirely white. So when this video was getting vetted for approval, there was no one to tell them that maybe it wasn’t a good idea. They had to find it out the hard way when the tweet got swamped with replies and quote tweets filled with outrage and mockery. The video was taken down after a few hours, but the internet remembers all.

Further on the PR bandwagon, both one of the oldest and the newest NHL franchises shared statements yesterday about racism. Let’s take a look at the two.

First, the Seattle [insert name here]. They have put together a set of resources and actionables about how they and their fans can be anti-racist on their website. It contains ways to take action, ways to donate, and how to read, watch, and listen to black voices both in and out of the hockey bubble. It is an incredible resource and fulfills the promises made by the statements the NHL and their franchises have been sending all year.

While Seattle’s staff is not public at the moment, their analytics staff is an incredible combination of youth and diversity, with the likes of Namita Nandakumar and Alexandra Mandrycky at the helm. If their analytics team is anything to go by, it should not be a surprise that they are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the NHL in all areas off the ice.

On the other side of the spectrum, the New York Rangers. The Rangers are a team that took over two weeks to release a statement following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests. In the 35 words, they found a way to say “racism” but that was about it.

Without surprise, the Rangers statement was meme’d a lot.

And they have yet to retweet K’Andre Miller’s statement and thoughts on the racist attack against him by one of their fans. Of course, the attack came during a Rangers-sanctioned Zoom call and they forced him to finish the whole thing even after the episode, so I can see why it wouldn’t look good on them. They’re certainly squeaky clean today. Tony DeAngelo’s podcast (that they did share) comes out this week, I think.


Leafs Branches

Newfoundland Growlers defenseman Erik Gudbranson shared a story on Sportsnet where he talked about the racial injustice against black people and hockey’s role in permeating that culture.

“Keep your mouth shut and play hard, kid,” he said. “Do what needs to be done, no matter what that may be, and you’ll do fine.” Those were hefty words, and I’ve carried them with me my entire career.

Lots of interesting bits in this article by Chris Johnston following the Leafs first small-group practice. Feels like the weight of the 2019-20 season has been lifted off their shoulders.

“The sessions are closed to the media, but the Leafs appear to have organized the six-skater groups by line groupings where possible — with Tavares, Marner and Ilya Mikheyev together in one, and Nylander, Hyman and Alexander Kerfoot (a likely placeholder for Matthews) part of another.”

Oh hey, did you see that last part? Ilya Mikheyev with Mitch Marner and John Tavares, and Zach Hyman with William Nylander and Auston Matthews? That looks mighty fine to me.

At the site, Zach Hyman has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy because he scored more goals than we collectively thought during the regular season?

And the Leafs Top 25 Under 25 eligibility list, featuring lots of charts!