Another day, another outrageous call by the executives of the National Hockey League.
The NHL has put down a sweeping rule, stating that no team can wear a specialty warmup jersey of any kind. Traditionally, teams in the NHL would host “themed” nights in their arena, wearing special jerseys during warmups to show solidarity for different organizations or groups.
In the case of the Boston Bruins, they host their own Military Appreciation Night, an event where they wear camo-clad warm up jerseys and offer special events throughout the game itself for members of the U.S. Military, past or present.
Under this new rule, we can say goodbye to this amazing initiative.
This also applies to the “Hockey Fights Cancer” cause, which is now no longer allowed to be celebrated in arenas. These specific nights saw each team warming up before the game in black and pink jerseys to show their support for people all around the world fighting cancer.
What started all this controversy and the creation of this strict rule, you ask? On team-sponsored “pride nights,” which are special nights devoted to showing support to the LGBTQIA+ community, certain players have chosen to sit out of warmups citing different reasons for doing so. Marc and Eric Staal of the Florida Panthers stated that the pride-themed event went against their Christian beliefs, and thus wasn’t something they wanted to participate in.
While the NHL has many Russian players in the league, their home country’s anti-gay laws may play a role in this as well. Concerned with the safety of their Russian players upon returning to Russia, the Chicago Blackhawks decided to sit out of their pride night but expressed disappointment in missing out on the chance to support according to an article by the Associated Press.
According to an article in NPR, the NHL put out a recent memo to teams doubling down on this rule for “specialty events”—which spans as far as banning players from using rainbow-colored tape. According to the same article, the league made a heavy push to promote pride events, with a campaign called “Hockey is for Everyone”. They even sold rainbow stick tape in their official shop.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton completely rejects this rule. He said he’ll be using the tape regularly, regardless of any rules in place, going so far as to say he’ll buy it himself if he has to.
So far, there have been no punishments on trespassers of this rule, but hockey fans will see how the NHL reacts to such protests in the coming weeks.
In my opinion, this is a huge step backward for the National Hockey League, a league I’ve loved to support and follow for so long. With these themed nights, I have always seen the NHL as inclusive to all races, ethnicities, belief systems and sexual orientations. It comes as a shock to me that this isn’t the case any longer.
The sport of hockey should truly be for everyone. The sport spans so many nations in the world and should be accessible to so many different people around the world, regardless of who they are.
The only solution to this seems to be to repeal the rule entirely. It isn’t fair to punish players for simply wanting to express themselves, even in such a small and harmless way like the color of the tape on their stick.
If a player wants to show support for a community, they should be able to without any restrictions whatsoever. What if a player wanted to use purple tape to support domestic violence awareness? Is that not allowed?
The league deems it a “distraction,” but a distraction from what? Both myself and many other hockey fans likely agree on the fact that these themed nights aren’t distracting from anything, but rather showing support to the communities that would benefit from it. If players choose to sit out, they sit out; that shouldn’t be a reason to get rid of these beneficial nights altogether.
The NHL needs to do better. This rule needs to be reversed, or at the very least fixed and amended. Without player’s expression and ability to support certain groups, players will only continue to be frustrated and the league won’t be as able to draw in support from these groups.
If the NHL thinks that “Hockey is for Everyone”, then they should really put their words into actions.