Connor Bedard of the Chicago Blackhawks warms up with Pride Tape on his stick before a game against the Calgary Flames at the United Center. | Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

When Anthony Filomena played hockey from a kid through high school, he heard a lot “that can be disheartening behind the scenes” when it came to discussing gay people. But now an out gay Chicago Blackhawks public relations manager found himself “blown away” by the team’s Pride Night this week.

“Little Anthony is blown away a night like yesterday even exists today, as Pride Night’s didn’t exist when I was growing up,” Filomena wrote after the team’s Tuesday Pride Night game that saw some players such as Connor Bedard use Pride Tape on their sticks.

“The fact that I get to work and be a part of the team that brought this night to life for all of Chicagoland and Chicago Blackhawks fans is something I’ll never forget — truly a career milestone moment. Two seasons in and it’s still has me speechless.”

Filomena’s excitement over the team’s Pride Night stands in contrast to the controversy in 2023 when the Blackhawks became one of several to ditch Pride warmup jerseys after a small handful of players in the league complained. Teams like the Blackhawks were seen as capitualting to a small number of homophobes. For a league with zero out gay players, it felt like a betrayal.

Tuesday was different. The NHL backed down from allowing Pride Tape on sticks, though theme warmup jerseys of any kind are still banned. Some Blackhawks players reflected on what Pride Night meant.

 “We respect any way of life anyone has, and Pride Night’s obviously still a big part of this league, and a big part of our organization from the top down,” said Seth Jones.

“All the players are are still happy that the organization is at least having a Pride Night. We’re not wearing the jerseys, but I think it means more than that. I think if everyone believes in it, it’s not just about the jersey at the end of the day.”

Nick Foligno had similar thoughts.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Foligno said. “I think it’s great that our league still does that. The biggest thing is everyone has different beliefs, but at the end of the day, you should be able to voice what yours is in a respectful way. It’s an opportunity for us to shed light on a group of people that has felt they need more of that. So it’s a great opportunity for us to do that if you feel the need to do so.

“It’s a nice way to take on leadership yourself, whatever you feel your beliefs are. I think that’s a great way to grow as a person. So if that’s an important part for you, then stand up and do it and and I think everyone’s there to support each other.”

To see stars such as rookie Connor Bedard use Pride Tape does show that younger players get the importance of allyship, even if the league and its owners often don’t.

Filomena had a message for for LGBTQ hockey fans and it was to see progress.

“To my fellow LGBTQIA+ community who feel like sports doesn’t have a place for us, I hope those who were in the building last night (including the many LGBTQIA+ content creators who came, see the comments section 👀 ) and those at home who saw on TV and all over social media, got to see just how right at home we truly do belong — and are here to stay.”

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