GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Wild defenseman Matt Dumba admitted feeling anxious Tuesday afternoon when the news started to break. After roughly 10 hours of deliberation, the jury had reached a verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.
All eyes were on Minneapolis in that moment, and for about 90 minutes between when the verdict was reached and when it was announced, it felt like time stood still.
“Just the unknown,” Dumba said. “Just knowing the magnitude of this trial and what could come of it for our city.”
From the team hotel in Glendale, Ariz., various members of the Wild watched the live coverage as Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges in the murder of George Floyd. Asked if he considered Tuesday’s verdict a win, Dumba replied, “I think a win would be if George Floyd was still around.”
But Dumba said he did feel a sense of relief after the verdict was read. He has been extremely vocal in speaking out against racism throughout his career, and notably did so when the NHL resumed play last summer in the bubble in Edmonton, Alberta. He hopes the verdict is the first step toward actual progress.
“My condolences still go to the Floyd family and everything they’ve gone through in this past year,” Dumba said. “I hope the verdict gives our community a sense of hope and optimism that we’re going to heal the right way.”
Though the verdict was something to celebrate in the moment, as far as Dumba is concerned, the fact that Floyd was murdered in the first place shows the need for police reform. As does the fact that Daunte Wright was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on April 11.
“Everything that’s happened in our city these past couple of weeks is a little too familiar,” Dumba said. “Just seems to be an occurrence that happens too often.
“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.”
A platform for change
Wild captain Jared Spurgeon watched the verdict, as well, and noted that it’s important to keep the conversation going in the coming days, weeks and months. He knows he has a platform as a professional athlete, and wants to use it to generate change.
“It’s very unfortunate that this is what it’s come to for everyone to realize the conversations that need to be had and the change that needs to be going on,” Spurgeon said. “For us, I think now that it’s out there and everybody is talking about it more, that’s a start. But there’s still so much work to be done.”
That’s the same rhetoric the Wild used in an official statement released on their Twitter account Tuesday. What does that work look like?
“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,” Spurgeon said. “Which it should never have been. As a group, as a locker room, as teammates and friends, we all have to speak out against what’s wrong.”
Added coach Dean Evason, “I hope we can get to a point where racism isn’t a part of our world. If we can do that, we would certainly have a better place.”
There was a palpable energy in Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon. Whether it was a march through the streets of downtown, a celebration in George Floyd Square or the personal moments of reflection that went unseen, the anger and trauma from the past year seemed to turn into hope and joy, if only for a moment.
Asked about the juxtaposition between those feelings and the civil unrest across the Twin Cities last year in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, Dumba responded, “I’m never going to take away from the grieving process of others.”
“After it initially happened, looting, rioting, that’s always been a form of protest against a society that values products more than its people in those communities, so I can understand that,” Dumba said. “Then to see the joy yesterday, and knowing they got it right here, that’s huge. I know there was a lot of fear and the possibility of it going the other way, so for it to all be said and done, and for the verdict to go the way that it did, that’s awesome.”
Now the key is continuing the momentum moving forward.
“It’d be a huge opportunity lost if we didn’t take advantage of that optimism,” Dumba said. “We know that things have to change. This could be a monumental piece of that puzzle moving forward. I would say that the verdict was a testament of what needs to change in our city. I think the jurors took everything into account and made the right decision for justice. But it’s sad that we had to get to that point.”