The NHL’s ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ month is an absolute mess, here’s why



The NHL has been holding Pride Nights since 2010, according to ABC7 New York.

Jennifer Moglia, Staff Writer

Every year, the NHL holds “Hockey is for Everyone” month, usually around February or March. Since it was implemented in 2018, I’ve seen it as a sad attempt at making the LGBTQ community feel included.

Each of the league’s 32 teams holds a “Hockey is for Everyone Night” or “Pride Night” during one regular season home game. Some teams go all out, displaying rainbow-colored graphics and having their players use pride-themed jerseys and equipment.

Going all out, in this case, is still the absolute bare minimum. It feels performative and all it does is raise awareness of rainbow colors, but it still means a lot to feel represented, even in the smallest ways.

I’ve been to some New York Rangers Pride Nights and they’ve been some of my fondest memories. Seeing my favorite players support a community so close to my heart, even if they’re just wearing a rainbow jersey, was empowering. It made me especially happy to know that the jerseys were auctioned off each year with proceeds going to LGBTQ charities.

This year, when I checked to see what my favorite team was doing to celebrate the queer community, I was unpleasantly surprised.

According to ESPN, the Rangers stated in promotional materials prior to their pride game that players would wear rainbow jerseys and use rainbow tape. When it was game time, they hit the ice in normal jerseys with regular stick tape, immediately facing backlash on social media.

Personally, I was heartbroken. The queer community barely gets representation in the world of sports as is, and to me, this was that last bit of hope being snatched away.

After the game, USA Today Rangers reporter Vince Mercogliano tweeted a statement from the team.

It explained that the team “respects the LGBTQ+ community,” and wanted to “bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night,” but to stay true to the “organization’s core values,” individual players were supported in their choice to “respectfully express their beliefs.”

Personally, I was heartbroken. The queer community barely gets representation in the world of sports as is, and to me, this was that last bit of hope being snatched away.

— Jennifer Moglia, staff writer

To me, this translated to, “some of our players didn’t want to wear pride jerseys, and we’re going to cover for them under the guise of ‘free speech.’” This statement is flawed for a variety of reasons.

First, Pride Night doesn’t only exist to bring attention to local organizations; it exists to make queer people feel welcome in a space dominated by cisgender and heterosexual people.

Furthermore, if the organization wanted to give its players the ability to “respectfully express their beliefs,” wouldn’t the players who wanted to show their support for the queer community be able to by wearing a jersey or using multi-colored stick tape?

This wasn’t the only time a Pride Night ended in disaster this season. 10 days before the Rangers’ fiasco, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to skate with his teammates during warmups on pride night, citing his Russian Orthodox beliefs as the reason why. According to ESPN, coach John Tortorella saw no issue, claiming that Provorov was just “being true to himself and his religion.”

I don’t know much about the Russian Orthodox religion, so I won’t speak on it. However, I did grow up Christian, and last week, two Christian players, Marc and Eric Staal, said their religious beliefs were the reason why they wouldn’t wear pride jerseys for the Florida Panthers.

Growing up in Catholic and Lutheran churches, I was taught to love everyone and treat them with kindness. Seeing backlash come from people using religion as their justification feels incredibly hypocritical.

What’s peculiar about the Staal brothers’ statement is the fact that they said “all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey,” before saying pride jerseys would go against their religion.

San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer released a nearly identical statement on March 18, explaining how Jesus asks him to love everyone and how everyone should be welcome in hockey before stating he would not be participating in his team’s pride festivities since it goes against the Bible.

Most recently, the Chicago Blackhawks decided to not offer the players the option to wear pride jerseys due to security concerns involving Russian laws preventing people from supporting the LGBTQ community, per ESPN. It’s more understandable than the other reasons, but discouraging nonetheless. In an argument all about personal choices and beliefs, how are the players who are strong advocates for queer rights supposed to feel when they don’t get the option to do what they feel is right?

There have been some bright spots throughout this ordeal, including the Sharks redesigning its logo to include pride colors and posting LGBTQ facts and resources on social media. Following the Reimer situation, Brian Burke, president of hockey operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins, openly supported players choosing to wear pride jerseys while on a Sportsnet broadcast. Burke’s late son was a part of the queer community.

I’ve always said that pride isn’t political. Empowering people to love who they love and be true to themselves shouldn’t be controversial. Unfortunately, in today’s social climate, some people, including politicians and lawmakers, feel that it is.

So many people, including countless in the queer community, use sports as an escape from the stressors of day-to-day life. To see those stressors bleed into your safe haven is heart-wrenching.

In the five years of Pride Nights leading up to today, fans have received the bare minimum. For as much as I complain, I realize that the bare minimum could be a catalyst for change. Hockey tends to be a very white, heterosexual and cisgender sport, and someone who hadn’t previously been exposed to pride or queer rights could potentially learn from these pride nights.

However, today, even that bare minimum is being taken from us. In a time where pride is unfortunately seen as political, I ask everyone, but specifically NHL athletes, to do what they can to show their support to the queer community. You can do much more than just wearing a rainbow jersey, but putting that jersey on could be the start of some very meaningful change.