NHL players are speaking out about Outsports’ confirmed report of a ban of Pride Tape during NHL practices, warm-ups and games by the league.
And by the initial and continuing reaction, many players are not very happy about it.
Buffalo Sabres captain Kyle Okposo said the ban is a backward move for the league.
“My reaction was that the goal of what the league and the players are trying to achieve is not going to be met because of this decision,” Okposo told Spectrum News. “I can see what the narrative was going to be from it and that it wasn’t going to in any way be positive. And that’s what upset me the most is, OK, we do a lot of special things in this league. We have a platform because we’re a professional organization in professional sports. And how do you use that platform to further the social agenda [or] the economic agenda? Whatever it is. In this case, [it’s] acceptance, diversity and inclusion.”
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers put it most bluntly: “In terms of a league standpoint, is it something that I’d like to see put back into place one day? Certainly.”
Could the NHL reverse course here? It seems possible, though NHL officials have been out there defending the indefensible policy.
So far, the players have been pretty united against it.
“I think it’s a work in progress as far as what’s right and what’s not,” Nashville Predators alternate captain Ryan McDonagh said. “Ultimately the individual has the final say. I think that’s what you found out last year with guys that made certain stances on things. That has to be continually discussed ... letting people make their own choices.”
McDonagh added: “If you feel strongly for something, there’s a will and a way to support anything you want in this world.”
According to Sportsnet writer Luke Fox, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly tried to find the silver lining and advance his support.
“I wish players had the right to do more and be more involved…. I’m going to continue to be involved in the community and offer support to those communities and those groups that want that, need that.”
Rasmus Andersson, a Swedish player for the Calgary Flames, seemed defeated.
“It sucks,” he said, according to Salim Nadim Valji. “It’s something that’s close to my heart and something I would love to support, but it is what it is.”
Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks said he’ll always support “Pride,” but he stopped short of bucking the NHL’s new anti-LGBTQ policy.
“You know, with Pride, we’ll always support that,” he said. “It starts at the top of the organization with the Aquilinis on down and whether we’re wearing the tape or the jerseys, that will be something that we always support and we may not be doing anything on the ice, but we’ll still be doing our things off the ice to support.”
Ian Cole, a new member of the Canucks, expressed some dismay but ultimately kowtowed to the league.
“Unfortunately, they are the iron fist there and what they say goes, so, unfortunately, they’re the bosses, they’re the ones that ultimately pay, and they’re the ones that make the rules.”
Edmonton Oilers winger Zach Hyman seemed resigned to give up.
“It’s a league-mandated thing,” he said seemingly disappointed. “All the jerseys are gone. It’s out of our hands.”
Zach Hyman was asked about the NHL's decision to ban Pride Tape pic.twitter.com/GP6TqJJ1RG— alicia ^^^ (@leashadawg) October 10, 2023
To be sure, it’s not out of the players’ hands. If enough of them chose to make this a hill to die on, the league can suspend only so many players at a time.
What will come of this? We will find out as the league opens its 2023-24 season.