Canada

NHL banning ’cause-based’ jerseys next season

The NHL will not allow teams to wear “cause-based” jerseys next season, the league confirmed on Thursday.

The league’s Board of Governors agreed with Commissioner Gary Bettman’s view that the refusals overshadowed teams’ efforts in hosting Pride nights that in some cases included auctioning off the warmup jerseys. All 32 teams held Pride or Hockey is for Everyone night.

Teams will still celebrate Pride and other theme nights, including military appreciation and Hockey Fights Cancer. They’re also expected to still design and produce jerseys to be autographed and sold to raise money, even though players won’t skate around with them on during warmups.

Pride jerseys became a hot-button issue in the league last season after multiple players refused to wear them during warmups.

Bettman, in an interview with Sportsnet following the Board of Governors meeting in New York, said he suggested teams stop having special warmup jerseys because themed nights were being undermined by chatter over certain players declining to participate.

“That’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are,” Bettman said. “We’re keeping the focus on the game. And on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause.”

Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov was the first to make that decision, citing his Russian Orthodox beliefs.

Florida Panthers brothers Eric and Marc Staal also refused to wear their team’s Pride jersey, claiming religious reasons.

WATCH | Handful of NHLers object to wearing Pride-themed jerseys:

Handful of NHLers object to wearing Pride-themed jerseys

3 months ago

Duration 2:02

Canadian NHL players Mark and Eric Staal are the latest to join a handful of others who are refusing to wear Pride-themed warm-up jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community. It’s ignited a debate over inclusivity and personal freedom in pro-hockey.

Some Russian players did not wear the sweaters over safety concerns going back home. In December, Russia amended its anti-gay laws making it “illegal to spread ‘propaganda’ about ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ in all media, including social, advertising and movies,” per The New York Times.

However, Russians such as Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky did wear the jerseys.

Three teams — the Minnesota Wild, the New York Rangers and Chicago’s NHL team — cancelled their Pride Night warmups, but kept other events.

‘Concerned and disappointed’

You Can Play, which has worked with sports and leagues — including the NHL — to help them grow more inclusive for members of the LGBTQ+ community, said it was “concerned and disappointed” by Thursday’s decision.

“Today’s decision means that the over 95 per cent of players who chose to wear a Pride jersey to support the community will now not get an opportunity to do so,” the organization said in a statement.

“The work to make locker rooms, board rooms and arenas safer, more diverse, and more inclusive needs to be ongoing and purposeful, and we will continue to work with our partners at the NHL, including individual teams, players, agents and the NHLPA to ensure this critical work continues.”

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