By Mia Birkes
Those interested in hockey may recall last season’s LGBTQ controversies. Throughout the season, as teams held Pride Nights, sported specialty Pride jerseys and wrapped sticks in Pride Tape brand rainbow tape, a handful of players protested on account of personal and religious objections, beginning with Ivan Provorov. As a result, some teams (New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks) stepped back from requiring specialty jerseys to be worn during themed nights. In a tweet in March 2023, openly gay hockey player Luke Prokop, who is currently the only player in the league to come out, says this was a “step back for inclusion.” The NHL continues to donate and support various LGBTQ charities and organizations, but this ban revokes public displays of support and moves the organization’s support largely out of the public eye.
That step backwards took a major leap in the wrong direction in June 2023, which the National Hockey League announced that specialty jerseys and other items, such as stick tape, would not be allowed in warmups, games, or practices. According to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the specialty jersey ban includes not only Pride Night, but also “Hockey Fights Cancer and jerseys commemorating Black and Latino heritage months and military appreciation.”
A memo was distributed to teams early in October, reminding players of the ban and noting that it extends to specialty tapes. Philadelphia Flyers player Scott Laughton said earlier this month, “You’ll probably see me with the Pride Tape on,” according to PHLY. “I didn’t really read what it said…If they want to say something, they can.”
This nonchalant “come and take it” attitude is shared by several players in the NHL, including Arizona Coyotes’ defenseman Travis Dermott. Dermott became the first player to use Pride Tape following the ban during the season opener versus the Anaheim Ducks, which the Coyotes won 2-1. Dermott has been an avid and vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community, even when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs some seasons ago. In a 2021 interview with ESPN, Dermott said, “I like to step forward and in the future take part in supporting them more vigorously,” in reference to family members part of the LGBTQ community. Neither Dermott nor the Coyotes have received any news of the NHL pursuing punishment for violating the new rule.
The Arizona Coyotes will be the first team to host a Pride Night this season on Oct. 27, when they play the Los Angeles Kings. Hopefully as the season unfolds over the next few months, more players follow Dermott and sport Pride Tape on their sticks or wear pride-affiliated stickers and ribbons on their uniforms. As of Oct. 24, the NHL has reversed the ban and will allow players to sport specialty tape for social causes, per the NHL X account!