Players will be banned from wearing ‘cause based’ jerseys during warmups next season, according to the NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman.
The league’s Board of Governors supported his conviction that refusals by a number of players to wear Pride Jerseys had overshadowed and impacted team’s hosting of Pride Nights.
Why has there been such a row? What does that mean for Pride Night events and the teams that participate going forward?
Let’s find out shall we?
In an interview with Sportsnet, the Commissioner said that NHL had taken the decision believing the refusal by certain players, had actually drowned out the message of the cause they were raising awareness about.
‘That’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are.
‘We’re keeping the focus on the game. And on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause.’
A further statement from the NHL added that the decision to ban the wearing of the Pride jersey would not only ensure that the NHL was tolerant of viewpoints, including those of its players.
‘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 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,’ the statement read.
What’s that mean going forward?
In simple terms, players won’t wear them but the teams will still make them.
While players will not be allowed to wear the jerseys during warm-ups, the teams will continue to host event nights like recognition of the armed forces, cancer awareness and Pride.
The ‘cause based’ jerseys will still be made, autographed and sold in order to raise funds for those causes.
This should hopefully address the row which erupted last season about them.
This was a very hot topic last season.
Seven confirmed players publicly declined to wear their team’s Pride Night designed jerseys for the warmups on the NHL’s Pride Nights.
Players like James Reiner of the San Jose Sharks, the Staal brothers Eric and Marc of the Florida Panthers, would also cite their religious beliefs as the reason for not wearing the ‘caused based’ jersey.
Andrei Kuzmenko of the Vancouver Canucks and Denis Gurianov of Montreal Canadiens would also choose to opt out of wearing their teams’ warmup jerseys for their own motivations.
The Buffalo Sabres player Ilya Lyubushkin would also decline because of Russia’s staunch anti-homosexuality legislation signed into law back in December.
Russian defenceman Ivan Provorov, then of the Philadelphia Flyers, would be the first to publicly decline wearing his jersey back in January. He stated that it was against his Russian Orthodox religious beliefs.
He would say, ‘I respect everybody, and I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.’
Responding to Provorov’s decision, the NHL would recognise that, ‘Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with league counsel and support.
‘Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.’
Declining to wear these jerseys was not shared across all Russians.
Some did wear them publicly like Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was still unclear what other Russian players were thinking or doing like Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin
While Ovechkin has not (so far) publicly said either way, it’s not stopped some US based media outlets from speculating why.
The Chicago Blackhawks also opted out of wearing Pride Night jerseys over concerns about possible retribution towards Russian players when they returned home.
The New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild would also U-Turn on their decision to wear them after actively promoting they would.