It turns out that it’s still possible to find Pride jerseys at a hockey game this season. You just have to go to the minor leagues to see them.
Last Saturday, the Utah Grizzlies — an affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche — celebrated their Pride Night by taking the ice in stunning warmup sweaters featuring a bear paw clawing across the front of the jersey to reveal the Progress Pride rainbow underneath their home whites.
The design was a brilliant way of conveying that LGBTQ support was underlying everything the organization was doing that evening.
It also might have been a great way to line up a future jersey sponsorship with GROWLR. If that happens next season, the Grizzlies should celebrate Pride with a game against the Erie Otters.
Pride jerseys also made their on-ice presence felt on November 3rd when the Cincinnati Cyclones played the entire game in sweaters showing off rainbow logos and patches reading “Shutout the hate.”
The Cyclones are an ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, which earlier this year abandoned plans to wear Pride jerseys during warmups.
It appears the Cyclones didn’t even consider how such a slogan would be perceived by Vladimir Putin. So you can see why they’re not in the NHL.
When Gary Bettman announced his league’s Pride jersey ban last June, he declared, “It’s become a distraction.” Indeed, the Cyclones were so distracted by their sartorial fierceness, they ended up winning their Pride Night game on an overtime goal.
After which, they found out that the nice thing about winning an OT game when you’re wearing rainbow jerseys is that you’re already dressed to party.
In a year of bad looks for the NHL, it underscores how unnecessary the league’s ban was when lower level teams like the Grizzlies and Cyclones are able to pull off successful Pride jersey promotions with no problems whatsoever.
This was a unique way to send the message: Hockey is for everyone…as long as they don’t play at the sport’s highest level.
It’s not typical procedure for a major sports league to be willingly shown up by its minor league teams. But nothing sums up Bettman’s commissionership better than that.
As other minor league teams host Pride Nights this season, let’s hope they continue finding ways to make Bettman look even more feckless.