The NHL recently sent a memo to teams outlining what they can and can’t wear as part of themed nights during games.
Among the things now banned on the ice is rainbow stick tape, which has become a hot-button issue during Pride-themed nights in recent years, ESPN reported.
The NHL had announced in June that teams were no longer allowed to wear "specialty" jerseys during warmups, practices or games after a handful of players opted out of those situations during Pride night last season — which the league said was a distraction.
However, players can still voluntarily participate in themed celebrations off the ice.
Former league and team executive Brian Burke, who often advocates for inclusion in sports, criticized the decision that he says removes a powerful community outreach tool and meaningful support to protect a select few who don’t want to answer questions about their choices.
“This is not inclusion or progress,” Burke, who spent six years as the NHL's executive vice president and director of hockey operations, said in a statement posted to social media. “Fans look to teams and the league to show they are welcome, and this directive closes a door that’s been open for the last decade. Make no mistake, this is a surprising and serious setback.”
This decision has stripped clubs of a powerful community outreach tool and removed meaningful support for Special Initiatives, all to protect a select few who do not want to answer any questions about their choices. I hope the NHL reconsiders in order to remain a leader in DEI. pic.twitter.com/SM5Fu56w7P
— Brian Burke (@Burkie2020) October 11, 2023
The makers of Pride Tape also said they are "extremely disappointed" by the NHL's decision to ban players from using the rainbow stick tape in support of the LGBTQ+ community this season, ESPN reported.
"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.
Earlier this year, Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov was the first player to decide not to take part in warmups when the team wore rainbow-colored jerseys before their Pride night game, citing his Russian Orthodox religion.
Other players followed for a variety of reasons, and individual teams including the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks decided not to have any players wear Pride jerseys in warmup.
Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly told reporters in Toronto he wished players had the right to do more and be more involved, the Associated Press reported.
“I’m going to continue to be involved in the community and offer support to those communities and those groups that want that (and) need that,” Rielly said.
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