NHL bans Pride jerseys and other specialty uniforms

Jun 22 2023, 10:14 pm

Pride jerseys are a thing of the past, at least when it comes to seeing them on NHL ice surfaces.

Special jerseys of any kind are no longer allowed to be worn by NHL teams during warmups, commissioner Gary Bettman said today in an interview with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

The decision was made following the NHL Board of Governors meeting, and is a clear response to multiple players refusing to wear their teams’ Pride jerseys last season.

“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 honour of various groups or causes. We’d rather they continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman said.

“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. This way, we’re keeping the focus on the game and on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause.”

After years of teams wearing Pride jerseys with full participation and without controversy, a small minority of players began refusing to wear them. Ivan Provorov was the first to refuse to wear a Pride jersey, as he sat out warmup in January but was allowed to play for the Philadelphia Flyers that night.

The Vancouver Canucks went ahead with wearing their Pride jersey in March, but star forward Andrei Kuzmenko didn’t put it on. Denis Gurianov made a similar decision when the Montreal Canadiens wore their Pride jersey in April.

This was more than just an issue with Russian players, although that country’s anti-LGBTQ laws were believed to be a concern for some in the league. Other players like James Reimer, as well as Eric and Marc Staal, cited religious concerns for their refusal to wear the jersey.

Teams will still be allowed to celebrate Pride and other causes, and they’ll be allowed to create special jerseys that can be worn by players off the ice. But they won’t be allowed on the ice for warmup.

Perhaps no team will be more affected by this than the Canucks, who have been trendsetters around the league when it comes to celebrating special causes. In recent years, they have brought in artists to design special jerseys for Pride, Diwali, Lunar New Year, and other events.

“32 of our clubs did Pride Nights, some do Heritage Nights, everybody does Hockey Fights Cancer. Some do military nights. All of those nights will continue. The only issue will be, or the only difference will be, we’re not going to change jerseys for warmup because that’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are.”

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