Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, who spent many years working and living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area when he was the Minnesota Wild’s GM, postponed a conference call with reporters Monday because he didn’t feel it was right to talk about hockey during these turbulent times in America.
The protests and riots started after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. The days and nights that have followed, the looting, the fighting, the fires, and more deaths, have sent shockwaves across the nation. Cities, including Philadelphia, have suffered damages that experts say will cost billions to repair.
The fact it started in Minneapolis is difficult for many members of the Flyers’ organization to grasp. “It’s sad, not only in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area, but all around the country,” said Paul Holmgren from his home in Yardley on Tuesday. “It’s sad to watch. Hopefully we can get some sense here and move forward.”
Holmgren, now a Flyers senior adviser and someone who has served as a president, general manager, head coach and player during his 40 years with the organization, grew up in St. Paul, located next to Minneapolis and part of the twin cities.
Like Holmgren, Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr used to live in St. Paul. He served on Fletcher’s staff and was a front-office executive for 10 years with the Wild, specializing in the draft.
“I watch on TV and I’ve been to some of the stores that are being looted and burned down and it’s devastating. It’s hard to watch,” Flahr said from his Haddonfield home. “I just don’t understand it. I understand people are angry, and they should be, but at the same time, I don’t know what that [destruction] solves, especially at a time like this. It’s terrible.”
Flahr said he doesn’t recognize the violence in the twin cities he sees on TV.
“I would agree with Brent,” said Holmgren, relayed Flahr’s comments. “It’s certainly not the city I knew or grew up around. I’m sure people in Philadelphia can say the same about the city they grew up in.”
Holmgren has been in constant touch with his relatives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
“I have family there,” Holmgren said. “Three of my grandkids live there; two of my children live there and I have some other relatives who live in the area, so it’s a little nerve-racking seeing what’s on the news there, reading about it, and hearing from them. It’s a sad and crazy time and hopefully it gets better sooner rather than later.”
Several Flyers reside in Minnesota, including Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, and Tyler Pitlick. They did not want to comment.
Many NHL players have voiced their concerns. Winnipeg Jets right winger Blake Wheeler, a 33-year-old Minnesota native, made a heartfelt comment on Twitter.
“I’ve wanted to say something for a while, but it’s been really difficult knowing what to say,” Wheeler wrote. “My hometown is burning. Businesses where I grew up are being boarded up. America is not ok. Growing up outside of Minneapolis, I always felt sheltered from racism. That’s because I was. Most people I grew up with looked like me. I never had to be scared when I stopped at a traffic light or saw the police in public. My kids will never know that fear either. I’m heartbroken that we still treat people this way. We need to stand with the black community and fundamentally change how the leadership in this country has dealt with racism.”
Added Wheeler: “I’m sorry it has taken this long, but I’m hopeful that we can change this NOW. George Floyd’s life mattered. Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered. So did every other life that has been lost by this senseless violence and racism.”