NHL hockey sticks on ice with pride tape.

NHL Continues Its One-Sided Fight With the Pride Flag

It’s a bummer of a time to be a hockey fan who is part of or cares about the LGBTQIA+ community. Last week, the National Hockey League (NHL) sent a memo to its teams announcing new rules about how players can engage in the league’s popular theme nights. Specifically, players are banned from using “Pride Tape,” a rainbow stick tape some players had used for the Pride theme nights.

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This is at least the second instance of what appears to be anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment from the higher-ups in the league this year, the first being banning Pride-themed warm-up jerseys for theme nights. In recent years, the NHL has hosted various theme nights, including Pride, Black History, Military Appreciation, and Hockey Fights Cancer nights, as part of an apparent effort to bring more crowds to the game of hockey. Pride night, however, has been controversial, which is not really surprising given the culture of the NHL, which is, according to reporting from Out Sports, the only North American league never to have an out player or coach, past or current. 

Things got heated in January when the Philadelphia Flyers team wore Pride theme jerseys, which were black with rainbow lettering, just for the pre-game warm-up during a Pride Night. Ivan Provorov, who is Russian Orthodox, declined to wear the special jersey, citing his religious beliefs, and was soon followed by a handful of other players who declined to wear the rainbow warm-ups. By June (a.k.a. Pride Month), the NHL had issued a decree banning any theme night jerseys, basically saying players could express themselves in their private time. So they didn’t specifically ban “the gay ones.” But this theme jersey ban didn’t come after a controversial military support night or a fighting cancer night. It came after people made a fuss about Pride night. 

In this latest ban, the language does specifically prohibit Pride tape. It doesn’t ban other colors of tape or issue specific brands the players can use. And guess what? Everything isn’t terrible after all because a lot of the players are pissed. The Oiler’s Connor McDavid and Zack Hymen, for instance, are two major players speaking out against the ban. 

As Greg Wyshynski, a senior NHL writer for ESPN wrote on X, “Seeing a lot of NHL players saying they’re going to break ranks and use Pride Tape despite the ban. Luckily, the NHL has shown that it values the personal beliefs of individual players more than any sort of team-mandated rule regarding theme nights, so they should be fine…”

(featured image: Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

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Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.