Each year, every NHL team has a Pride Night or Hockey is for Everyone Night that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and ensures that hockey is a place for everyone. This year, there has been lots of controversy with players not participating and the meaning of the night being hidden by these problems.
The whole controversy seemingly started on January 17 when the Philadelphia Flyers hosted their Pride Night. Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov declined to take part in warmups where the team wore Pride jerseys. He said his decision was made due to religious beliefs. Coach John Tortorella defended him and permitted him to play in the game saying he was just being himself and expressing his beliefs.
This situation sparked lots of issues with people saying that the NHL doesn’t take this night seriously and people believing that Provorov should have had some consequences for his decisions if the NHL truly cared.
On March 27, the Buffalo Sabres held Pride Night. Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin, who is from Moscow, didn’t participate in warmups to wear the Pride jersey, citing safety concerns about Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ law.
Sabres captain Kyle Okposo expressed empathy for “the situation (Lyubushkin) is in.”
A similar situation happened on March 31 in Vancouver. Canucks winger Andrei Kuzmenko decided with his family that he would not wear the Pride jersey. Kuzemenko, who is from Russia, said postgame that he respects everyone and their choices, and he hopes people respect his and his family’s choice.
One of the biggest controversies in this situation came from Florida on March 23. Brothers on the Panthers, Marc and Eric Staal, sat out of warmups after choosing not to wear the Pride-themed jerseys.
“After many thoughts, prayers, and discussions, we have chosen not to wear a Pride jersey tonight,” their statement read. “We carry no judgment on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey. Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a Pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs.”
People had lots to say after Eric Staal said that he had not worn a Pride jersey when asked about wearing one in the 2020-21 season with the Montreal Canadiens. Video evidence has disproved his claim as people were not happy with him.
Pride Night and Hockey is for Everyone Night are very celebrated and huge throughout the league so let's not forget that. A lot of players have great things to say and share their excitement about the night.
“In our organization, everyone is welcome. Every time we’ve done the Pride Night, I’ve worn the jersey and celebrated the night,” Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes told reporters. “We’ve worn it every year since I’ve been here, even the year with the Canadian Division where there were no fans here. I think it’s a great night, and I’m glad we’re doing it.”
"We want to be as inclusive as possible, and I think hockey is for everyone. It's a great phrase," coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters.
Other players like Matthew Tkachuk, Connor McDavid, and Zach Hyman have also shown their support during interviews.
Many teams have already hosted this night, but there are still some to look forward to and celebrate as teams show their inclusivity and support!