(Photo courtesy of CBS Sports) “Pride tape on a hockey stick”
The National Hockey League has officially banned the use of Pride Tape across the league. This has been coming for a while after the fallout and backlash of Pride jerseys in the past few years. Last season saw several players putting up fights and refusing to wear their Pride night jerseys just for warm-ups. The NHL had several special warm-up jerseys that each team wears over the course of the season: these include St. Patrick’s Day, Military appreciation, First Nations and many more. All of them have been eliminated due to the backlash of only the Pride Night jerseys.
Now the NHL has banned the use of Pride Tape, a brand of stick tape that displays a rainbow pattern. This brand has never been required by the league or any teams during Pride Nights, but many players would opt to use it on their warm-up sticks. The NHL has officially banned the use of it in any games and warm-ups, causing massive backlash from both fans and players. Pride Tape has been around and a part of league celebrations for 7 years and helped to fuel the NHL’s claims of inclusivity.
The full call to ban both Pride Tape and all themed jerseys shows exactly where the NHL stands in inclusivity. They have chosen to protect the feelings of a few players who are against the pride jerseys rather than actually making queer fans, staff and players feel included. Many fans agree that this is a cowardly move by the league and that there were easier solutions to players being against the pride nights. The easiest solution that many fans suggested was having those who did not want to wear the Pride Night jerseys simply sit the game out, stating they should not be on the ice for the entire night that celebrates what they are so adamantly against.
Gary Bettman, the current NHL commissioner, went on record to call the Pride Jerseys a distraction. This came out with the decision to remove all theme night jerseys, but it was not very subtle that they decided to remove all of the theme nights because of the Pride Nights. Bettman did acknowledge that the jerseys and celebration nights can help LGBTQ+ fans feel welcomed and accepted in the league, but stated they were not worth the distraction.
This decision ultimately brings to light what many fans have thought about homophobia within the NHL. There has always been the unspoken understanding that hockey is for cisgender and straight men, but there seemed to be a push for them to do better in the past years. The NHL has harbored a space where players felt safe and supported enough to openly bash pride initiatives, while completely ignoring the feelings of their queer fans.
Fans are left feeling ignored and cast out by the league after these decisions. Some are pulling away from their teams and supporting them for this season, while others are turning to the players who are vowing to use Pride Tape during every game. There is still hope in many people’s hearts that the NHL will bring back their theme nights, particularly Pride Night.