SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Joel Ward said he might take a knee during the national anthem at an upcoming game, becoming one of the first NHL players to join the protests that started in the NFL and drew criticism from President Donald Trump.
The 36-year-old Ward, one of about 30 black players in the league, is from Canada. Asked if he would consider kneeling during the anthem, Ward said it's something he wouldn't rule out.
"I've experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence," he said. "I haven't really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn't say no to it."
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in the preseason a year ago to make a statement about social inequality and police treatment of blacks in the United States. More than 200 players knelt or took other action during Sunday's anthems in the wake of Trump's suggestion that NFL owners fire players who protest during "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Ward proudly wears No. 42 as a tribute to baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who endured countless threats and abuse while paving the way for black athletes in Major League Baseball.
Ward said he once received a death threat after scoring a series-clinching goal.
"When somebody takes the initiative to put you down because of the color of your skin, it's definitely tough," he said.
Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league baseball player to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday.
The Sharks voiced their support for Ward, issuing a statement this week:
"The San Jose Sharks deeply respect each individual's constitutional right to freedom of speech and personal expression."
Another NHL player, the Philadelphia Flyers Wayne Simmonds, also is considering kneeling during the anthem when the Flyers play the Sharks next Wednesday in the regular-season opener in San Jose.