The New York Islanders were scheduled to play the Philadelphia Flyers in Toronto and the Vegas Golden Knights were to face the Vancouver Canucks in Edmonton.
“After much discussion, NHL Players believe that the best course of action would be to take a step back and not play tonight’s and tomorrow’s games as scheduled,” the league said in a statement.
“The NHL supports the Players’ decision and will reschedule those four games beginning Saturday and adjust the remainder of the Second Round schedule accordingly.”
The NHL went ahead with Stanley Cup playoff games in its coronavirus quarantine bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton on Wednesday as the NBA and WNBA called a halt to play and Major League Soccer clubs and a scattering of Major League Baseball teams also opted not to take the field.
The league held a “moment of reflection” before Wednesday’s game between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lighting.
But Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, a founding member of the player-based Hockey Diversity Alliance, said he was “disheartened” by the league’s response, and on Thursday the NHL listened to the urgings of Alliance members.
“We @TheOfficialHDA have formally requested the @NHL to suspend all playoff games today,” members of the group tweeted. “We strongly feel this sends a clear message that human rights take priority over sports.”
Hours later, the NHL and the players union made their response official.
“Black and Brown communities continue to face real, painful experiences,” their joint statement said. “The NHL and NHLPA recognize that much work remains to be done before we can play an appropriate role in a discussion centered on diversity, inclusion and social justice.
“We understand that the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment. We pledge to work to use our sport to influence positive change in society.”