Raised fist, Aussie debut highlight first weekend


What was the biggest news from the weekend, and what does it mean?

Emily Kaplan: So much to unpack on the ice (Alex Ovechkin is on pace for 82 hat tricks! Start planning Toronto’s parade down Yonge Street!), but for me the most significant story happened just off the ice. Tampa Bay Lightning winger J.T. Brown raised his fist during the national anthem on Saturday, and that is important for the sport. In the NHL, players — stars, and certainly non-stars — are expected to bow their heads and conform to norms. Brown is one of only about 30 black players in the NHL. He’s in a contract year. That he believed strongly enough in a cause to stand out certainly does not fit within hockey culture, which makes it even more commendable. Brown has been eloquent in explaining why he raises his voice on social issues, including comments to me in August when he donated to a fund to remove a confederate statue in downtown Tampa, Florida. It’s not just about raising awareness. It’s also about “creating a more inclusive environment” and setting the example for his daughter, who was born this summer. She’s not the only one who can learn by his example.

Chris Peters: The headline of the weekend is undoubtedly Brown’s actions Saturday night and the reaction that has followed. It transcends the game, but since Emily eloquently tackled that subject, I’ll look to what happened on the ice. Have you seen any Toronto Maple Leafs fans lately? Have you seen that strange look on the faces of Leafs Nation? Yeah, that’s genuine excitement, hope and general happiness. They were already happy to have Auston Matthews, but to watch the Buds put up 15 goals over their first two games has got them jumping for joy. Seven goals against the Winnipeg Jets wasn’t necessarily the biggest shock, but chasing Henrik Lundqvist after putting five past him in the first period Saturday night catches your attention pretty quick. Toronto definitely showed some cracks against the New York Rangers, as they blew the 5-1 lead. Three more goals in the third period secured an attention-grabbing 8-5 win and 2-0 start for the Maple Leafs. What’s most impressive about their scoring is that it’s spread out. Twelve players scored for the Leafs, as their top nine forwards looked near unstoppable at various points. They have some things to clean up to be sure, but there are not many teams that will be as fun to watch as the Leafs this season.

Tim Kavanagh: Talk all you want about Ovechkin’s eleventy billion goals this weekend (note: approximate), but we already know Ovi is one of the best scorers of this generation — and he’s obviously not going to finish anywhere near his current pace of 287 goals. Nope, the highlight of the weekend for me was Nathan Walker‘s debut, as he became the first Australian-born NHL player. Not impressed? The Washington Capitals winger scored a goal in his first game. Still not impressed? The Australian ambassador to the U.S. is named Joe Hockey. I don’t think this means we’ll see an influx of Australians taking over the league, but it serves as a reminder that there still can be firsts, even in a league that has 100 years of history in the rearview mirror.

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