Ivan Provorov became, for many fans, synonymous with anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the NHL a year ago when he refused to wear a rainbow-colored Pride jersey for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Pride Night. That refusal cascaded into a league-wide ban of Pride jerseys.
Now his new team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, will have a “Hockey Is For Everyone” jersey patch on the sleeve of the jerseys of Provorov and all of his teammates for a raffle for the team’s foundation in celebration of their game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The players did not wear the “Hockey Is For Everyone” jerseys during their game against the Vancouver Canucks. The Blue Jackets won the game, 4-3, in a shootout.
So you can buy the jerseys. You can win one in a raffle. But they wouldn’t dare actually have the players wear the jerseys for a game.
Oh, and the guy who rejected LGBTQ Pride is being honored with a “Hockey Is For Everyone” patch.
The Provorov jersey was noticed by an Outsports reader during the broadcast of the Blue Jackets’ 7-4 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Saturday. The team was using Provorov’s jersey to promote their “Hockey Is For Everyone” game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation will include Provorov’s signed “Hockey Is For Everyone” jersey in a raffle to raise money for charity.
Imagine being an LGBTQ person who enters the raffle and “wins” the jersey of the player who sparked the ban of Pride jerseys in the NHL.
A bizarre choice by the Blue Jackets, at best.
Some of the Blue Jackets players used Pride Tape during warm-ups for the game. Pride Tape had been previously banned by the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman, before the pushback from players, fans and the media forced the league to rescind the ban.
It's time for face-off and time to tune in!— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 15, 2024
HERE. WE . GO!
Listen LIVE: @1057alt, and on the #CBJ app https://t.co/3RUjMKk9Wq
Watch LIVE: @BallySportsCbus, the Bally Sports app, and Bally Sports+ https://t.co/C6By14pSXh@dsw_us | #CBJ pic.twitter.com/Qp00Rxxk46
While the game isn’t specifically focused on LGBTQ inclusion, the team is centering Pride with a special Pride ticket package as part of the larger night. Part of each ticket will go to fund Stonewall Columbus.
The appropriateness of putting a patch that says “Hockey Is For Everyone” on the jersey of a player who literally refused to wear a special jersey for a Pride Night — for just 20 minutes during a warm-up — is certainly up for debate.
The effort to make hockey for everyone, including LGBTQ people, is certainly noble and good to see. It’s important. And the NHL and its teams are making an effort, despite a series of massive setbacks in 2023 — led by Bettman — that have quickly made Outsports readers view the NHL as by far the most anti-LGBTQ pro sports league in America.
POLL: Of the Big 4 major men's pro sports leagues in America, which do you perceive to be the most anti-LGBTQ?— Outsports (@outsports) December 18, 2023
Yet the NHL continues to use the “Hockey Is For Everyone” moniker that simply isn’t true.
The language — both heterosexist and homophobic — in and around men’s hockey locker rooms, for example, is reportedly the worst in sports. That has led to people like former hockey player Brock McGillis and the folks at You Can Play to focus on making the sport feel more welcoming to gay and bi men.
There is also a dearth of people of color in the sport.
Hockey can be for everyone. The NHL wants it to be for everyone. But it’s not right now.
Putting a “Hockey Is For Everyone” patch on a player who can’t even wear a rainbow for 20 minutes, and who ignited a league-wide ban of Pride jerseys, is a bit insulting to the LGBTQ community and exemplifies the hollowness of the message.
Another chapter in the NHL’s total mishandling of Pride and the LGBTQ community that will leave a lot of people scratching their heads.