Luke Prokop’s team, the Seattle Thunderbirds, didn’t hold their own official Pride Night this season.
So his teammates teammates took it upon themselves to show support.
On Tuesday, Thunderbirds fans staged their own Pride Night at the team’s home arena, wearing rainbow paraphernalia and showing their support for LGBTQ inclusion. The players followed suit, and put rainbow tape on their sticks during warmups.
Multiple players kept the tape on their sticks during the game, while others sported rainbow socks. A Twitter user captured the heartwarming scene.
Seattle Thunderbirds have the only out gay player in the WHL but chose not to hold Pride Night so fans organized their own. What I didn't expect was every single Tbird using Pride tape for warmups to support their teammate pic.twitter.com/vEmzQCjZxu— Michaela Gray (@GreyMichaela) March 23, 2023
Teenage boys stepping up in a way grown men won't— Michaela Gray (@GreyMichaela) March 23, 2023
Several of them kept it on their stick or socks for the actual game (hi Luke!), including the goalie, Milic, but I couldn't get a good shot of his stick. pic.twitter.com/y22w8qmHYp
Prokop, the first active player under NHL contract to publicly come out as gay, was traded to the Thunderbirds in late October. While Tuesday’s promotion was slated to be “2-for-Tuesday,” the Thunderbirds followed the lead of their players and fans and put up rainbow graphics on their Jumbotron.
Tuesday’s festivities were organized by the Seattle Hockey Pride Association, an LGBTQ hockey club in the city.
Last night was a wonderful night and there was lots of love in the building from everyone. Looking forward to this again! pic.twitter.com/nsMwnVBGgm— TOm Helm (@RealmofHelm) March 23, 2023
The awesome gesture from Thunderbirds players pales in comparison to the Pride Night cowardice that’s been displayed across the NHL this season. Most recently, the Chicago Blackhawks announced they were ditching their Pride warmup jerseys, citing Russia’s anti-LGBTQ propaganda law.
Apparently, Vladimir Putin has annexed Chicago. Amazing how we all missed that.
Earlier this month, The Athletic reported that Putin’s anti-gay laws are causing some NHL teams to rethink their Pride Nights, in an effort to protect their Russian-born players. About five percent of NHL players are Russian.
Russia’s most recent anti-LGBTQ law, passed in December, “makes it illegal to spread ‘propaganda’ about ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ in the media, advertising, movies or on social media,” according to the New York Times.
While blaming Russia seems like a convenient out, the explanation doesn’t add up. The Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings each have a Russian-born player, and all of their players recently wore Pride jerseys.
The Chicago Blackhawks also publicly supported Ukraine this season, which is also illegal under Russian law. It’s unknown why the organization thinks it’s more dangerous for its three Russian-born players to show solidarity with LGBTQ people than Ukrainians.
Last weekend, San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer refused to his Pride warmup jersey (citing his religious beliefs), though everybody else, including the team’s two Russian players, went forward with the plan.
Earlier this week, Prokop released a statement addressing the league’s Pride Night debacles, calling them “disappointing.”
But on Tuesday, Prokop’s teammates answered the call. For what it’s worth, not a single player on the roster is older than 20, and the youngest player is 15.
The kids are alright, and much braver than some of the multimillionaire adults playing in the NHL.