Flyers coach Alain Vigneault delivered prepared remarks Saturday afternoon in a Zoom call from Toronto with reporters, reiterating he was a strong supporter of social justice and adding that “we can all start by being good to one another.”
After reading from his statement, which lasted about four minutes, Vigneault did not take questions in the scheduled news conference. The Flyers faced the New York Islanders in Game 3 of their playoff series Saturday night.
The league postponed two games Thursday and two Friday, showing unity after a police officer shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Wisconsin.
On Thursday afternoon, before games that day were postponed, Vigneault said he was “invested 24/7 on our team” and that “I really have no idea what’s going on in the outside world.”
Some criticized him sharply for being out of touch with the situation.
“In life, I answer to my parents. I answer to my family. I answer to my friends, and I answer to God,” Vigneault said as the start of his speech Saturday. “Everyone I just mentioned knows that what I’ve said since our postgame on Wednesday is the truth. My honesty, my integrity, my social commitment, for some reason, has been pushed to the forefront.”
After the Flyers’ 4-3 overtime win over the Islanders in Game 2 of their playoff series Wednesday afternoon, Vigneault was asked about the NBA’s postponing games to protest the Blake shooting. At the time, Vigneault said that it was the first he had heard about the decision and that he needed time to learn about the situation.
“We had played a 3 o’clock game, and I didn’t know what was going on [in the NBA], so I didn’t comment,” he said Saturday.
Vigneault, 59, a Quebec native who is the 10th-winningest coach in NHL history, said he got back to his hotel in Toronto at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, grabbed some dinner and a martini, “and went to my room to work. We were playing in less than 24 hours. I worked late into the night, got up very early the next morning, and continued to work.”
Vigneault, who is trying to win the first Stanley Cup of his 17-year coaching career, said he conducted a coaches meeting from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Thursday and then went to get tested for the coronavirus. He returned around noon for his next news conference.
“I never bothered to ask or check with anyone with what was going on in the world or the NBA,” he said. “I am guilty of that. I was totally focused on our next game. Like I said at that 12 o’clock press conference, I am for equality. I am for social justice.”
After that news conference, Vigneault said he went to his team’s pregame meal. When it was done and he left, “I saw players from the four teams who are in the bubble talking. That was my first indication that something was going on,” he said. “Shortly after that, I received a text from one of my players, telling me they were not playing that evening.”
The NHL, after its players took a stand, postponed two playoff games Thursday and two Friday.
“I am guilty of not checking up on what was going on in the world and the NBA,” Vigneault said. “But I am a good person. I believe in equality. I believe in social justice. I want to be part of the solution. I want to help society in any way I can.”
At the conclusion of his speech, Vigneault thanked those who had texted or called him to show their support in the last 48 hours.
“I want to say thank you, and continue to stay safe,” he said.
“To all of the people in the last 48 hours that have questioned my honesty, questioned my integrity, questioned my social commitment,” he added, forcefully, “I want to say …”
He paused again.
“You also stay safe,” he said.