GLENDALE, ARIZ. – In the wake of George Floyd's death last year, Wild defenseman Matt Dumba became the face of hockey's fight against racial injustice.
He helped form the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which is aimed at eradicating racism and intolerance in the sport, launched a fundraiser to help rebuild Lake Street and delivered a powerful anti-racism speech in front of a national TV audience during the Stanley Cup playoffs before becoming the first NHLer to kneel during the U.S. national anthem.
After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd, a verdict that was announced Tuesday, Dumba feels optimistic the community will heal but also recognizes the circumstances as an opportunity to continue to talk about systemic racism.
"These are conversations that need to be had and need to be furthered so we can generate the right change and the right healing process so these kids and families in these communities can have that sense of peace, because that's one thing I worry about," Dumba said Wednesday morning before the Wild faced the Coyotes at Gila River Arena. "I'm not concerned about my safety. … It's about the kids in those communities, how they feel on a day-to-day basis, their own anxieties that they have to live with, the desperation that they feel because problems in the community have always been swept under the rug.
"So, to be there for them as role models and leaders in our community, I think we all have a hand in that."
Dumba felt relief after the verdict, and he was staying in touch with friends through text messages and FaceTime.
"I think the jurors took everything into account and made the right decision for justice," he said. "But it's sad that we had to get to that point."
He saw the joy reflected in the community after Chauvin was found guilty, this after unrest spread amid the trial after Daunte Wright was killed by police during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on April 11.
"Just sitting at my apartment these past couple of weeks and all I hear is sirens downtown," said Dumba, who is Filipino-Canadian. "There's constantly something going on in our city, and there's a level of trust that has been broken. To repair that is going to take time and it's going to take all of us coming together and being able to set differences aside and work toward a common goal of rebuilding that trust and different levels of reform."
Wild captain Jared Spurgeon relayed the same message, that the work is far from over.
"Just to be able to push forward and be able to speak about it freely and have everyone talking about it and not feel like it's something we have to push under the rug, which it should never have been," Spurgeon said. "As a community, as a group, as a locker room, teammates and friends, we all have to speak out against what's wrong."
Last year, Dumba won the NHL's King Clancy Trophy for his leadership qualities and contributions to the community. Only a few months ago, the defenseman started a camp for local youth players to bring more diversity and inclusion to the game. And that's where Dumba believes change can happen, at the grassroots level.
"Just being able to communicate that to my teammates and what I have going on and how I can see our group helping kids in our backyard and in our cities," he said, "I think it's going to go a long way here and I'm very excited to see what we can do in the future."
The Wild will close out the regular season on May 13 instead of May 12 after the NHL updated the team's remaining schedule.
Instead of finishing at home, the Wild will play the Blues May 12 and May 13 in St. Louis in games previously scheduled for April 30 and May 1. The April 26 and May 12 home games against the Blues are now April 29 and May 1.