The NHL ruled in June that its players will no longer wear “specialty” jerseys after players opted out of wearing Pride-themed uniforms during warmups.
Philadelphia Flyers Defenseman Ivan Provorov brought the issue to light when he refused to wear the team’s Pride-themed jersey during warm-ups in January, citing his Russian Orthodox religion. His jersey became one of the league’s best sellers shortly after his stance.
Several teams backtracked their originally-planned Pride night spectacles, while other players among several teams opted not to do so, citing both religion and safety concerns.
However, with the abolishment of the jerseys came a ban of rainbow-colored stick tape. According to ESPN, the ban was to prevent using it as an “end around” to the new specialty uniform policy.
The makers of “Pride Tape,” though, said they are “extremely disappointed” in the league’s decision to wipe them out.
“The league has used language in recent days that 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,” Pride Tape said in a statement to ESPN.
It should be noted that Pride jerseys are not the only uniforms banned by the NHL. “Specialty” jerseys include all types of on-ice commemorations, including other heritages, Hockey Fights Cancer nights, military and first-responder appreciation, and other causes for support.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman cited a reason to keep the focus on the ice and avoid any “distraction.”
“I suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warm-ups because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs in some form or another host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman said in June.
“But in the final analysis, all of the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various courses have been undermined by the distraction in terms of which teams, which players, this way we’re keeping the focus on the game and on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause,” he said.
Pride Nights, as well as other heritage celebrations and causes for support, will stay, Bettman said at the time.
“The only difference will be is we’re not going to change jerseys for warm-ups because that’s just become more of a distraction from, really, the essence of what the purpose of these nights are,” he said.
Bettman even said that themed jerseys will be sold and designed and that players could even “model them” if they choose.
“It’s really just a question of what’s on the ice,” Bettman said.
Connor McDavid, perhaps hockey’s biggest star, said he would like to wear pride-themed jerseys and tape.
“I’ve expressed disappointment in not being able to wear the various jersey or the tapes … whether that’s Pride tape or pink tape,” McDavid said Tuesday. “Is it something that I’d like to see back into place one day? Certainly,” McDavid added.
The uniform change came in the midst of Pride Month while the league has been criticized for not making the LGBTQ community welcome at its games, which Bettman called “legitimate concerns.”