NHL players will be allowed to use Pride tape this season after all with the reversal of a ban that sparked a backlash around hockey and among LGBTQ+ advocates in sports.
The league, players’ union and a committee on inclusion agreed to give players the option to represent social causes with stick tape during warmups, practices and games. The move announced Tuesday rescinds a ban on rainbow-coloured Pride tape for on-ice activities that was provided to teams earlier this fall as guidance for theme nights.
“We are so very grateful to everyone who believes hockey should be a safe, inclusive and welcoming space for all,” the makers of Pride Tape said on social media. “We are extremely happy that NHL players will now have the option to voluntarily represent important social causes with their stick tape throughout season.”
Pride nights became a hot-button issue in hockey after six players chose not to participate in pregame warmups last season when their team wore rainbow-themed jerseys. Teams this season are not allowed to wear any kind of theme jerseys, including military appreciation and Hockey Fights Cancer, for warmups.
The tape ban drew criticism from players around the league, longtime executive Brian Burke and others. Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton told reporters he’d probably use it anyway, and Arizona’s Travis Dermott defied the ban over the weekend by putting rainbow-coloured tape on his stick for a game.
Asked earlier this month about the ban, longtime Pride tape user Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Washington Capitals said he hoped it would lead players to get creative about how they support social causes.
“There’s still a lot we can do and a lot of ways we can make people feel welcome and included, so hopefully that doesn’t deter guys,” van Riemdsyk said. “A lot of guys, maybe this will just spur them forward to maybe make it more of a point to do things, whether it’s away from the rink or whatever it may be.”
Burke, a longtime advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, sharply criticized the ban he said removed meaningful support, calling it “not inclusion or progress” and a surprising and serious setback.
The You Can Play Project, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ participation in sports and has partnered with the NHL for a decade, called the reversal “a win for us all.”
“Actively welcoming communities into hockey is imperative to keep the sport strong now and into the future,” You Can Play said in a statement. “We appreciate every person, team and organization that made their voice heard to support this change and appreciate the NHL’s willingness to listen and make the right choice.”
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