Matt Dumba wants to make a difference when it comes to combating racial injustice in hockey, and that’s why the Wild defenseman helped establish the Hockey Diversity Alliance. The group composed of current and former NHL players has made its mission to rid the sport of racism and intolerance.
The hockey world is noticing, and Sunday night, Dumba was named winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, an award that goes to a player who “best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice.”
“This is a very special day for me and my family,’’ Dumba said. “I’m just so honored. … 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.’’
Dumba’s work on social justice came to the forefront in June, after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd that resulted in murder charges against one Minneapolis police officer and aiding and abetting murder charges against three others.
“With all the craziness in the world and what happened to George Floyd, that initiated it,’’ Dumba said. “Watching something as disgusting as that, it really can get your blood just boiling. I was at a point where I knew I had to do something.’’
Dumba received the award over two other finalists: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Devils defenseman P.K. Subban. Each team nominated a player for the award, and the winner was selected by a committee of senior NHL executives led by Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
Dumba receives a $25,000 donation from the National Hockey League Foundation that will go to the Hockey Diversity Alliance and Athletes Committed to Educating Students (ACES). Lundqvist and Subban each will receive a $5,000 donation to charity.
Sunday’s announcement marked the second consecutive year a Wild player has won the King Clancy Trophy. Last year, forward Jason Zucker won the award for his work with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and other charities. Zucker was traded to Pittsburgh in February.
It’s not only through the Hockey Diversity Alliance in which Dumba is trying to make a difference. On June 18, he launched a fundraiser to support the Lake Street Council and their initiative to Rebuild Lake Street at rebuildminnesota.com. He has pledged to match all donations up to $100,000. Dumba’s other efforts during the 2019-20 season included COVID-19 support to more than 60 families who are part of ACES, a Hockey Fights Cancer tribute for a close family friend and a donation to Australian wildfire relief efforts.
Dumba’s defining moment came Aug. 1 as the NHL began the qualifying round of the playoffs. Before the opener featuring Chicago and Edmonton in Edmonton, Dumba gave a heartfelt speech about ridding hockey of racism and intolerance.
“Hockey is a great game, but it can be a whole lot greater,” he concluded. “And it starts with all of us.”
After his speech, Dumba, flanked by the Blackhawks’ Malcolm Subban and the Oilers’ Darnell Nurse, took a knee during the U.S. national anthem.
Dumba wants to keep the momentum going for his cause, and he used a recent anecdote involving former Wild teammate Chris Stewart to drive home his point.
Stewart has twin sons, Christian, who has lighter skin, and Connor, who is darker-skinned. “Christian asked his dad, ‘Does this mean Connor will get shot instead of me if we did something wrong?’ ” Dumba said. “It’s so heavy hearing that from a 6-year-old who’s watching the news and growing up in the world. I just took a stand for this generation coming up and them not having to go through what some of us have.”