The NHL will no longer allow teams to wear specialty jerseys during warmups, including Pride jerseys, the league’s commissioner announced following the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting in New York.
The reason? “It’s become a distraction.”
Why will NHL teams no longer wear specialty warmup jerseys?
In an interview with Sportsnet following the Board of Governors meeting, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman explained the decision.
“I’ve suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warmups 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,” Bettman told Sportsnet. “And we rather those continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction.”
Will the NHL still hold special promotional nights, among them Pride Night?
Bettman told Sportsnet that Pride Night is here to stay — all 32 teams held Pride or Hockey is for Everyone nights, according to The Associated Press — along with other cause-based promotional nights like Hockey Fights Cancer, as well as heritage nights and military appreciation nights.
He added that teams can still sell specialty jerseys created for various charities.
“Players who choose to model them can do that,” Bettman said. “It’s really just the question of what’s on the ice.”
What controversies surrounding the NHL and Pride Nights have happened?
There were numerous incidents this past season in the NHL involving players or teams opting out of wearing Pride warmup jerseys, as the Deseret News previously reported.
In total, seven NHL players chose not to participate in pregame warmups when their respective teams wore Pride jerseys, and there were some teams who decided to not have their players wear these specialty sweaters after previously planning to do so, according to ESPN.
The discussion surrounding NHL Pride events began in January, when the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov chose not to wear the team’s Pride Night warmup sweater, saying that doing so went against his religious beliefs, as the Deseret News previously reported.
Brothers Eric and Marc Staal (both who play for the Florida Panthers) and San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reiner also sat out of warmups during their team’s respective Pride Nights for the same reason, per ESPN.
CBS Sports reported that new Russian laws also led to some NHL teams choosing not to wear special warmup jerseys for fear “that may have put players from that country in jeopardy if they promoted pro-LGBTQ causes.”
Reaction to the decision
The You Can Play project, which works with sports and leagues — among them the NHL — to help them become more inclusive for members of the LGBTQ community, said it was “concerned and disappointed” with the NHL’s decision.
“Today’s decision means that the over 95% 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, per The Associated Press. “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.”
Bettman told Sportsnet the decision was made to try and help maintain focus on the cause that these promotional nights are created for.
When asked about the timing of the announcement — it is Pride Month in June — Bettman told Sportsnet, “I agree those are legitimate concerns, but in the final analysis, all of the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various causes have been undermined by the distraction in terms of which teams, which players (are wearing them). This way, we’re keeping the focus on the game and on these specialty nights. We’re going to be focused on the cause.”
Source: Yahoo Sports