As the newly named captain for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey, it didn’t take long for Joe Pavelski to be asked about head coach Joe Tortorella’s recent comments stemming from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing national anthem protest.
“If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game,” Tortorella told ESPN on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Pavelski told NHL.com: “I don’t think it was anything. Everyone knows the situation right now. There’s so much respect for that flag and that anthem, it’s just coming out. … We’re really here to play hockey now and represent the country and USA and want to do our best there. It’s just about doing it the right way.”
Pavelski, who has been to 49ers games in nearby Santa Clara, indicated he wasn't completely on board with Kaepernick's approach.
“It’s a situation, you just … you wish it was maybe handled a little bit differently. Everyone has their opinion, and they’re entitled to that. You just try to do it the right way, and move on.”
A Wisconsin native, Pavelski, 32, is currently taking part in Team USA’s training camp in Columbus, OH, where Tortorella serves as head coach of the Blue Jackets. He was officially named Team USA's captain on Wednesday morning.
The World Cup runs from Sept. 17 – Oct. 1 in Toronto.