On Sunday night, the National Hockey League made the announcement that Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba will be the recipient of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The King Clancy is given to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.”
Taking the very definition of the trophy into account, the decision to award it to the 26-year-old Filipino-Canadian was simply a no-brainer. A leader on and off the ice, Matt Dumba has exemplified willingness to make change in his community as well as the very league his professional career began with in 2012.
A Face Of The Hockey Diversity Alliance
In June, several current and former NHL players announced the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane and former NHL player Akim Aliu would serve as co-heads of the organization. Matt Dumba would be one of the players involved, named by the founders to the HDA’s executive committee.
The mission of the Hockey Diversity Alliance is to “to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey” and was formed following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dumba would be called to deliver an anti-racism speech during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers where he would become a momentous occasion in the history of the NHL.
A Historic Moment With A Strong Message
Prior to a play-in series game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place, Matt Dumba delivered his powerful speech. Dumba then became the first NHL player to take a knee during the “Star Spangled Banner.” However, Dumba stood back up for the Canadian national anthem, a decision he would later regret as he wanted to acknowledge the systemic racism within his home country as well.
Just a day after delivering that speech, Matt Dumba raised his first in the air for both the American and Canadian national anthems. A closed fist raised high in the air has long been associated with the black power movement since the 1960’s and is a sign of resiliency, unity and strength. When used during such a big event such as the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the act can surely garner the attention the movement deserves.
When The NHL Could Have Done More
Following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, basketball players came to the decision that they will not play their games in protest. As a result, the NBA postponed their games and the WNBA and MLB followed with postponements as well. The league that stood out, in ways that upset many, was the NHL.
Instead of following in the footsteps of the other leagues, the NHL opted to hold a moment of reflection prior to game three of the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning series.
“Racism has been embedded in our society for far too long. Today and every day, the NHL and the hockey community are committed in the mission to combat racial injustice and achieve a fair society for all. The NHL would like to take this moment to wish Jacob Blake and his family well and call out to our fans and communities to stand up for social justice and the effort to end racism.”
Following this statement from the defensemen, a seven second moment of silence was held while the “End Racism” graphic was still up on the arena screen. Upon completion, fans and sports broadcasters alike, thought the NHL could have done more by not playing the two scheduled games remaining that evening.
Matt Dumba was vocal on the matter, going on to mention how the NHL was complacent in comparison to the major sports leagues who took action.
“The NHL is always last to the party on these topics. It’s kind of sad and disheartening for me and for members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and I’m sure for other guys across the league. But if no one stands up and does anything, then it’s the same thing. That silence. You’re just outside, looking in on actually being leaders and evoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so.”
Dumba’s statements rang true, as while the NHL did eventually postpone their games for the following two days, it was a missed opportunity to stand in solidarity among other leaders in the sports world the night of the initial postponements.
Humbled And Honoured, But Still More Work To Be Done
In regards to being awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, Dumba said, “This is a very special day for me and my family” and that “I’m just so honoured. … This award really isn’t about you. It’s about the people around you and all the support and love I’ve gotten from them.”
There are still more changes to be made as Dumba will continue to battle racial injustices, not only through the Hockey Diversity Alliance, but through various other outlets and believes that combating racism is a path that he will be committed to his entire life.