Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers uses a Pride Tape stick during warm-ups before the annual Celebrating Pride game against the Seattle Kraken at Rogers Place on Jan. 18, 2024, in Edmonton. | Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Why are the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Western Conference Finals, which start tonight against the Dallas Stars? Thank Pride Tape.

You thought the Oilers got this far because of an early-season coaching change and the exploits of players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Game 7 goalie Stuart Skinner? Or because the Vancouver Canucks were missing two key players in their deciding Game 7 loss to the Oilers? You’re wrong. It’s Pride Tape, based in Edmonton, and worn by more Oilers than any other team.

The Oilers wore the tape during their warmups for their January Pride Night and Getty Images has 10 photos of players on the team at the time skating around with the tape — superstars McDavid and Draisaitl, plus Mattias Janmark, James Hamblin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Mattias Ekholm, Calvin Pickard, Ryan McLeod and Adam Erne.

McDavid was one of the first to speak out when the NHL banned pregame Pride jerseys and then Pride Tape. It was a decision that seemed fitting for a league that has never had an out gay player. The Pride Tape ban was quickly reversed after an outcry.

“I certainly can’t speak for every organization,” McDavid said last year. “I know in Edmonton, we were one of the first teams to use the Pride tape. We strongly feel hockey is for everybody, and that includes the Pride Nights.”

McDavid, Nurse and Draisaitl Nugent-Hopkins didn’t just use their own Pride Night to rock the tape. They also wrapped their sticks in the rainbow tape during the New Jersey Devils’ Pride Night.

While I could not find photos of Dallas Stars players wearing Pride Tape, the team did auction off jerseys the players wore at their March 20 Pride Night, with the proceeds going to Pride Frisco, “a nonprofit organization that provides support to members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ communities of Frisco and North Texas through social and educational programming, professional resources, scholarships, and strategic collaborations.”

In the Eastern Conference, players from finalists the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers wore Pride Tape during their team’s Pride Nights.

I will concede that Pride Tape is not the only reason for Edmonton’s success, but it is great that the ban had the unintended but positive effect of bringing LGBTQ allies out front.