NHL Commish Says League Will ‘Evaluate’ Future Pride Nights After Player Protests: It’s Become a ‘Distraction’

Buffalo Sabers Pride Night

Adrian Kraus/AP

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will “evaluate” Pride Nights in the offseason due to opposition from players this season.

As part of its Hockey is for Everyone initiative, teams in the NHL have had their own Pride Nights for years now. On those nights, it’s common to see teams wearing rainbow-colored warmup jerseys or using rainbow-colored sticks as a show of support for the LGBTQ community.

Due to a growing number of players speaking out against the practice, however, Bettman believes it’s starting to become a “distraction.”

“This is one issue where players for a variety of reasons may not feel comfortable wearing the uniform as a form of endorsement,” Bettman said to CTV News in Ottawa. “But I think that’s become more of a distraction now, because the substance of what our teams and we have been doing and stand for is really being pushed to the side for what is a handful of players basically have made personal decisions, and you have to respect that as well.”

Although the initiative isn’t new, it made headlines when Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov elected to not participate in the team’s pregame warmup during its Pride Night. After the game, he cited his religious beliefs as the basis for his decision.

“I respect everybody and respect everybody’s choice,” Provorov said. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

Brothers Eric and Marc Staal, who are also teammates for the Florida Panthers, did the same during a March 23 game. Like Provorov, they chose to not participate in Pride Night for their religious beliefs.

That same day, the Chicago Blackhawks announced the team would not wear their Pride Night warmups out of concern for its Russian players. In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a ban on “LGBTQ propaganda,” and the Blackhawks weren’t sure if it would apply to the team’s Russian-born players.

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