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Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid Speaks Out Against The NHL’s Ban On Pride-Themed Jerseys

McDavid spoke to the media following the NHL Awards about the league’s decision to remove Pride warmup jerseys and all other specialized jerseys next season…

The NHL is set to ban themed pregame warm-up jerseys next season, the result of a year of controversy after seven players in the league refused to wear Pride-themed warm-up jerseys in support of the 2SLGBTQI+ community.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, however, spoke out against the ban earlier this week after he was named the league’s MVP, winning his third Hart Memorial Trophy in Nashville, Tennessee. McDavid led all players with 64 goals, 89 assists and 153 points, the most since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.

“I certainly can’t speak for every organization,” McDavid said. “I know in Edmonton, we were one of the first teams to use the Pride tape. I know in Edmonton, in our dressing room, we strongly feel hockey is for everybody, and that includes the Pride nights.”

“Of course, it’s disappointing to see,” McDavid continued. “With that being said, that’s certainly way ave my decision. It’s not my call. But obviously it’s disappointing to see.”

Players who opted out of wearing Pride-themed warm-up jerseys this season included: Montreal Canadiens right wing Denis Gurianov, Vancouver Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin, then-Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (Provorov was the first NHLer to refuse to wear a Pride-themed warm-up jersey in January, citing his religion), San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer, and brothers Eric (centre) and Marc Staal (defenseman) of the Florida Panthers. All cited either their religious beliefs or Russia’s anti-gay laws, which were amended in December 2022.

Themed pregame warm-up jerseys are done… but, theme nights will continue

This year all 32 teams held a Pride or “Hockey is for Everyone” night in support of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. However, the league’s board of governors agreed with commissioner Gary Bettman’s view that the seven jersey refusals overshadowed teams’ efforts in hosting Pride nights, so the league decided last week that teams won’t wear any special pre-game threads next season.

Teams will still celebrate Pride and other theme nights, including military appreciation and Hockey Fights Cancer. Clubs are also expected to continue designing and producing jerseys to be autographed and sold to raise money, even though players won’t wear them during warm-up.

“All the attention was taken away from the right reasons,” said Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund, who won the King Clancy Award. “All of us were wearing the jerseys … everyone was looking (at), ‘Who’s not and why not?’

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos also commented on the NHL’s decision saying that it was disappointing that the story this season was about the few players who refused to wear Pride jerseys.

“It was 98 per cent or 99 per cent of other players that wore the jersey and enjoyed wearing it and were proud wearing it — whatever jersey it was — whether it was the Pride, the military night, the cancer nights,” said Stamkos, who won the Mark Messier Leadership Award. “The story shouldn’t be about the guy that didn’t wear it — the one guy or the two guys… I understand that’s what gets the clicks and that’s what gets the views, but the word ‘distraction’ gets thrown around. I don’t think it had to have been a distraction. It could have been a non-issue while focusing on the good that was coming out of those nights.”

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