Last week, the NHL issued a memo to teams explaining the guidelines for theme celebrations this season. These guidelines specifically prohibit the use of rainbow-coloured stick tape during Pride nights, which have sparked controversy in the hockey community.
The updated guidance reaffirms on-ice player uniforms and gear for warmup and official team practices cannot be altered to reflect theme nights, including Pride, Hockey Fights Cancer or military appreciation celebrations. Players can voluntarily participate in themed celebrations off the ice.
WATCH | NHL bans Pride tape:
Bill Daly, the Deputy NHL commissioner, has confirmed to The Associated Press that the league has sent an updated memo. The memo was first reported by ESPN and was sent a few hours before the season opened with three games.
The You Can Play Project, a group that supports LGBTQ+ involvement in sports and has collaborated with the NHL for the past ten years, criticized the league by stating, “This approach does not align with the idea that Hockey is for Everyone.”
The YCP Project stated that the NHL is no longer prioritizing inclusivity and is undoing the significant advancements it once made in promoting belonging for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. This jeopardizes the progress and relationships built with the community.
“Making decisions to eradicate our visibility in hockey — by eliminating symbols like jerseys and now Pride Tape — immediately stunts the impact of bringing in more diverse fans and players into the sport.”
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On Tuesday, the creators of Pride Tape expressed their deep disappointment with the NHL’s choice to exclude Pride Tape from all on-ice activities in the league.
“The league has used language in recent days which would prohibit the tape from any proximity to NHL Hockey. We hope the league — and teams — will again show commitment to this important symbol of combating homophobia.”
In June, the NHL made the decision to disallow teams from wearing themed jerseys during warmup. This ruling came after a few players chose not to participate in Pride night last season, which the league believed to be a distraction from the community work being done by the teams.
NHL players will cease to wear Pride jerseys.
“You know what our goals, our values and our intentions are across the league, whether it’s at the league level or at the club level,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in February during all-star weekend festivities. “But we also have to respect some individual choice, and some people are more comfortable embracing themselves in causes than others. And part of being diverse and welcoming is understanding those differences.”
Ivan Provorov from Philadelphia was the initial player to opt-out of participating in warmup activities when the Flyers donned rainbow-colored jerseys for their Pride night game in January. Provorov cited his adherence to the Russian Orthodox religion as his reason for doing so.
Six other players followed for a variety of reasons — fellow Russians Ilya Lyubushkin, Denis Gurianov and Andrei Kuzmenko and Canadians James Reimer and Eric and Marc Staal — and individual teams including the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Chicago decided not to have any players wear Pride jerseys in warmup.
Several NHL players have expressed their disapproval of wearing jerseys with Pride-themed designs.
Morgan Rielly, a defenseman for the Maple Leafs, expressed his desire for players to have greater rights and involvement during a conversation with reporters in Toronto.
Rielly expressed his intention to remain engaged in the community and provide assistance to the groups and communities that desire and require it.
I haven’t had the opportunity to review the changes from the league yet, said Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and defenceman Josh Morrissey.
“I am aware that this organization is committed to inclusivity and organizing theme nights,” Cheveldayoff informed reporters in Winnipeg. “However, I cannot provide details about the content of the memos as I am not yet acquainted with them.”
“I will need to receive more information and details about that. However, I am aware that our organization is fully committed to doing everything within our capabilities.”
“I have always made an effort to support and participate in various theme nights and promote inclusivity in the game of hockey,” stated Morrissey. “My personal goal is to ensure that everyone feels welcome to play, watch, or be involved in what I believe is the best sport in the world. So, regardless of any directives, my aim remains unchanged in trying to expand the reach of the game.”