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Are we obligated to mix Pride and hockey?

Controversy stirs around LGBTQIA+ equipment used in the NHL

The National Hockey League (NHL) has faced significant controversy since the launch of its Pride nights in March 2023, where all players were required to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of LGBTQIA+ people and groups. 

Some religious players challenged the Pride nights, as well as some Russian players, who feared they would not be allowed back into their home country if they wore these colours. People were outraged and disappointed in the players and teams who scrapped Pride nights altogether. 

Chief Commissioner of the NHL Gary Bettman made some changes to Pride night in early October, banning the use of Pride tape on the ice. He emphasized players can participate in Pride events off the ice. The NHL had previously banned teams from wearing pride-themed jerseys on the ice in June. 

Russian players unable to participate

The main issue surrounding participation in Pride events is that various players do not want to wear Pride jerseys or tape during NHL’s Pride nights. Some, including brothers Marc and Eric Staal, do not want to wear the jerseys or tape due to religious reasons. Russian players were unable to even if they wanted to.

The Russian government imposed a law which prohibits Russian citizens from promoting “non-traditional sexual relations,” otherwise known as LGBTQIA+ relations. Most of the NHL teams have a number of Russian players who are citizens of the country and live there when the season is over.

If Russian players participate in wearing Pride jerseys and tape they will face repercussions when they arrive home later in the year. 

Politics shouldn’t be advertised in hockey

I do not agree with the use of Pride jerseys and Pride tape for Pride nights, especially if it’s enforced as it was. Despite the outrage, I believe the Pride nights needed to be challenged. No matter your beliefs, the NHL should not be forcing players to wear something in support of a political point of view.

Pride is about having a choice to love or identity however we’d like. It doesn’t matter what other people think, but I find it ironic how Pride nights do not give you that choice.

I support Pride.

However, people shouldn’t be forced to demonstrate their support, or lack thereof, in sports. People’s beliefs about Pride are irrelevant in sports, and I believe it should stay that way.

Since Pride is a celebration of choice and being yourself, on Pride nights, players should be able to choose to participate.

SUB: Pride tape is now a choice

On Saturday, Oct. 21,  the NHL went back on their ban completely when Arizona Coyotes defenceman Travis Dermott used Pride tape in a game against the Anaheim Ducks. The NHL will allow players the option to represent their social causes and political values with stick tape.

This is a good change, and it should have been this way from the start.

Players should have the choice to advertise their social values. I don’t agree with using the NHL as a platform to advocate our personal values. Even so, Pride is a very important value in Canadian and American culture, and it should be celebrated at a personal level.

It’s excellent that Pride nights will continue with players choosing to use Pride tape, or not, without any implications involved. 

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