[UPDATED] Grading NHL Team responses to the #BlackLivesMatter protests

Everyone’s doing it. Since the horrific murder of George Floyd was captured on video, denouncing racism has suddenly become very cool with everyone and their dog publicly declaring that they support some interpretation of anti-racism. This is good. This should continue. But, some have done a better job than others. So, let’s take a moment and give credit where credit is due, and learn from other people’s mistakes. If you’ve never marked student papers before, here is a little taste of what it’s like.


Toronto Maple Leafs, Grade: B

It’s fine. They say the word racism and anti-racist; however, invoking the murder of Floyd without also naming policy brutality as the cause results in a loss of marks.


Minnesota Wild, Grade: D

Marks deducted for using “death” instead of murder, but the call for unity is the huge mistake here. Calling for unity right now dismisses the moment of anger that we are in. There are 5 stages to grief for a reason and we have just barely entered stage 2. Unity (or acceptance) is the last stage and we haven’t done any of the work to deserve unity.


Washington Capitals, Grade: C

Monumental Sports released this statement covering all of their teams. This is fine but fails to identify the cause of Floyd’s death and doesn’t address racism as the main issue. Clearly just going for participation marks.


Nashville Predators, Grade: B-

Credit for not copying other people’s answers and trying to work through the issue independently. The “let us all stand together” bit is like calling for unity, so it’s unnecessary. “Strong emotions in every community” also sounds too much like “good people on both sides.” As the longest statement, it actually says very little. This student is clearly putting in effort but hasn’t quite figured out how to clearly articulate their feelings and what they have learned.


San Jose Sharks, Grade: C-

Looks like we’re going for participation marks here also. Pointing to the kid in class who did their homework doesn’t really let the teacher know what you learned and what you plan to do moving forward. Seems like the student forgot about the assignment and left it until the last minute.


NHL Seattle, Grade: B+

New kid in class, so trying not to be too hard on them. Racial injustice and systemic racism get points but otherwise it leaves a lot of marks on the table. Here’s the kicker though with Seattle: they’re actually doing things on the ground that make these relatively mediocre words sound a lot more impactful because there is action that precedes them. If you do the work, you don’t have to say very much.


LA Kings, Grade: B-

The short phrases in bold font at the end add a certain kind of punch. They identify the Black community by name and correctly capitalized its usage (this is literally how we have to mark sometimes – you look for anything to give someone points). Again, we’re leaving a lot to be desired and there isn’t enough context to really understand what’s going on.


Dallas Stars, Grade: A

Okay, when you’ve read 100 other essays that begin “Since the beginning of time…” any other starting line suddenly stands out! It seems like they have read beyond the immediate context. Points for focusing on the Black community, but points deducted for the thinly veiled comment about “peaceful protest.” More points for identifying listening as a way forward. Bonus points for not using a dark background. Naming George Floyd by name and police brutality would have received full marks.


New Jersey Devils, Grade: C.

Meh. No mention of George Floyd, Black is not capitalized, calling for unity. The “communal assets” part is super weird. This is the “okay, you kind of get it” paper, but it seriously lacks depth of analysis. #WeAreOne is just another way of saying #AllLivesMatter.


New York Islanders, Grade: F.

It starts off okay but then plagiarizes the work of another student, and finishes in a way that clearly demonstrates that they have not done any of the course readings or come to class. This is not a moment for police officers — the exact opposite actually. Very close, but completely incorrect.


Montreal Canadiens, Grade: B-

They make a thin connection between racism and the “death” of George Floyd. They do call it a crime, so points there. As for the work they have done in the past, it leaves the marker with a raised eyebrow…


Chicago Blackhawks, Grade: D.

First of all, you have a racist caricature on your statement, which completely negates your statement: “There is no tolerance for racism.” Second, #BlackLivesMatter is not a “many communities” issue. If I knew nothing about the current context I would have no idea that George Floyd was Black or what happened to him. Small businesses? Sorry, next.


NHL, Grade: C

It’s okay. Part marks for using the word privilege. They have come to class and know what they are supposed to say to pass the course but considering how many times this student has had to do this assignment, one would expect a little more depth at this point.

These statements represent the bare minimum of engagement in anti-racism. We will not know if teams mean these words until something else transpires or they take the initiative to start cleaning house, implement new procedures for who they bring into their organizations, and/or hand out significant consequences for racist behaviour both on the ice and in the stands. Importantly, though what these statements do is provide a base for accountability. These are the receipts. You said you believe this so why are you doing [insert contradictory thing here]? Should more teams continue to put out statements? Yes. But learn from the mistakes of others:

  • Focus this statement on the Black community.
  • Say George Floyd’s name.
  • Call out policy brutality (unless you support it…)
  • Say #BlackLivesMatter (this is about focus, not exclusion)
  • Give us one concrete example of something you’re going to do moving forward.
  • DO NOT say anything about unity.
  • Make sure you don’t have any racist pictures on your statement

Here’s a good example from a student in another class that you could use as a sample (Washington Wizards):


The advice is free but you should probably make a donation to the NAACP, #BlackLivesMatter (Toronto), the Brooklyn Bail Fund, or Black Girl Hockey.

Updated as of June 2nd, 4:30pm PST.


Columbus Blue Jackets, Grade: C-

“Divisive” is generally a way to dance around the word racism, so part marks docked there. I know they said it above, but they can say racism again. There is lots of racism to talk about so feel free to use it abundantly. Unity – docked marks. Now, you would think bringing in sexual orientation, gender, and class would be a good way to go – but you’d be wrong. This is what happened with Hockey is For Everyone. It started as a racial equality campaign and then became a party for everyone. Good sentiment but we need to stay focused. This is a #BlackLivesMatter issue. If you want to write another one about the people punching Chinese people in the face because of corona virus racism, great, but that’s not why people are in the streets right now. We are not looking for breadth at this moment. Marks for big clear font. Does anyone else agree that the logos at the top are more aesthetically pleasing?


Pittsburgh Penguins, Grade: C+

It’s not a great idea to say it’s a “horrible time” for everyone because (while it’s not wrong) it kind of says everyone’s trauma is relatively equivalent. It’s not. Active killing of “Mr. Floyd” gets marks but nothing about police brutality. Again, nothing about the Black community directly. It’s not terrible but it’s missing a lot of the core concepts.


St. Louis Blues, Grade: FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF**********

Do I really need to write comments on this one?



Las Vegas Golden Knights, Grade: C-

First, why is the font so tiny? They made two statements. The first says nothing about Black lives or police brutality, which are the reforms that they seemingly allude to. It is very vague. In the second one, they include #BlackOutTuesday but they have skipped all the work to get to that point. By releasing two statements, the Knights are trying to sit on both sides of the fence and there aren’t two sides to the issue this time.


Colorado Avalanche, Grade: C+?

Legacy of racism is a nice touch. Naming some famous Black athletes…okay. Symphonic – someone has been using their thesaurus. “These horrific events” refers to what exactly? Drawing on Dr. King without any depth – classic first year move. I like that they put in print that they will work with civil rights groups, something we can hold them accountable to but the statement itself fails to address the main issues.


Phoenix Coyotes, Grade: D

Uh huh, uh huh. How do I know that this was written for this specific course assignment? I have seen “borrowed” papers from other courses and this is what they look like.


Boston Bruins, Grade: A+

Keywords right off the top, nice. Self-reflection and honesty – points! Calls the situation what it is – points! Simple, concise, to the point. Something about police brutality would have been excellent but well done to the Bruins. And, as a Canucks fan, you don’t know how hard this was to write.

Updated as of June 3rd, 7:30am PST


Winnipeg Jets, Grade: C-

The Jets have mistakenly lumped Black communities in with “many communities.” Similar to the Sharks, the Jets are leaning on a much better statement (by Wheeler) to do less work of their own. One voice – blah blah blah – unity. I will say that the Jets do acknowledge the needs of the surrounding Indigenous communities in a way that other Canadian NHL clubs have not, so maybe that’s something?


Philadelphia Flyers, Grade: C

Easy on the eyes, which is a nice change. A more creative intro is worth some partial marks. Systemic racism gets them a mark but what is this essay actually about? No idea.


Buffalo Sabres, Grade: C-

George Floyd – check! There’s a lot of standing going on. Again, what is this statement actually about? Hard to know. There is no claim on responsibility or future actions. Was George Floyd Black? We’ll never know…


Florida Panthers, Grade: D.

So we’re talking about Black people…what else you got? Too many calls for unity without any context or explanation as to why we lack it in the first place.


Tampa Bay Lightning, Grade: F

Oooo, family. Strike one! You’re an employer, not a family. You should have had Stamkos do your homework for you. He was a top notch student and it showed in his personal statement.


Carolina Hurricanes, Grade: C

Even before I read it, I had high expectations because the Canes have been really cool…but I was met with disappointment. Credit for identifying Black communities and racism but that is literally the bare minimum.


Vancouver Canucks, Grade: C-

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure if my Canucks were going to say anything here. The Canucks tend to hang their hat on simply existing in a “multicultural” city as proof of anti-racism. Do they have South Asian and Chinese New Year nights? Yes. But these are classic displays of “shallow multiculturalism” with no real depth behind them. This is further evidenced by this strange two-part statement that makes zero connections to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. They are waving the Canadian flag of multiculturalism hard in the hopes that you won’t see that there is little substance behind it. Points for creativity, I guess? And aesthetically, our blue and green are always on point. Don’t @ me.


Detroit Red Wings, Grade: IN

No student number or name, and no effort = incomplete.

Updated as of June 4th, 12:30pm PST


Edmonton Oilers, Grade: F

We. We. We. This drips with unity talk like it’s covered in that oil drop. Nothing about Black lives, nothing about George Floyd, nothing about the police, nothing about systemic racism. We are clearly not learning.


Calgary Flames, Grade: F

This could literally be written on any given Tuesday. Do not waste my time with this.


Ottawa Senators, Grade: D

Not sure why this came from the Senators Foundation…and then the Foundation cut ties today…but naming George Floyd gets a mark. Not calling it a murder loses that same mark. Save the tragedy talk. Humboldt was a tragedy. This is about injustice that we authorize everyday. The rest of the words are just words to fill the space.


27 thoughts on “[UPDATED] Grading NHL Team responses to the #BlackLivesMatter protests

  1. ‪“This is not a moment for police officers” wth‬

    ‪Tell that to the families of innocent police officers killed and critically injured during these “protests.”‬

    • 1) it’s their jobs, they signed up and can leave any time.

      2) the few officers hurt were hurt by some offshoot proudboys in tie dye shirts.

      3) there are no innocent officers.

  2. No doubt in 2020 the chief logo should no longer be used by the NHL or any youth teams in North America. Even if one does not view it as racist it is certainly outdated.

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  4. Very pleased that the NY Rangers did not buy into this nonsense. NHL support for these domestic terrorist losers would be suicide for the league.

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