Column: NHL Teams’ Pride Nights Canceled, Players Refuse to Wear Jerseys


The San Jose Sharks were among the NHL teams that canceled Pride Night. Photo: Luiz Eduardo via Flickr.

Many NHL teams promised to hold Pride Nights or other Pride-related events this season; however, several ended up canceling these plans. In other cases, individual players refused to wear Pride jerseys.

Many of the NHL players who opted out of wearing these jerseys claimed religious reasons. These included a large number of Russian players — including Ivan Provorov, defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers — who generated a great deal of controversy in the hockey community.

Many believe this issue goes deeper than the religious affiliations of NHL players and relates to Vladimir Putin’s restrictive laws governing members of the LGBTQ community in Russia. If a Russian NHL player were to wear a Pride jersey, they might be targeted by the Russian government.

Buffalo Sabres player Ilya Lyubushkin even cited an anti-gay Kremlin law and his fears of punishment in his home city of Moscow. Though the Buffalo Sabres decided not to cancel their Pride Night in March, the team acknowledged safety concerns, tweeting, “We are aware of general threats to certain players and understand their decision to forego risk.” This risk was especially prevalent for NHL athletes who still have family members in Russia, including Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who is also originally from Moscow.

Luke Prokop, Nashville Predators prospect and the league’s first openly gay active player, spoke out about the Pride Night controversies and expressed his disappointment in the teams and players who refused to wear Pride jerseys.

Prokop tweeted, “I share the disappointment in what feels like a step back for inclusion in the NHL.”

Prokop was not the only player who endorsed Pride Night and wore a Pride jersey, though. While some teams did cancel their Pride Nights, many others did not, including the Anaheim Ducks on March 3, the Arizona Coyotes on March 5 and the Boston Bruins on Feb. 18.

San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture was one of many players who supported Pride Night by wearing a Pride jersey.

“I think this organization sees this as an extremely important night,” Couture said in an interview with CBS Sports. “I think that hockey is really for everyone. It is an inclusive sport,” he added.