Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

CASEY | Dear NHL, Stop Failing Your Queer Fans

The last few weeks have been deeply frustrating and disappointing for queer hockey fans, as two teams’ attempts to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and promote inclusivity with Pride Nights exposed the homophobia that still blemishes the NHL and the hockey community at large.  

NHL teams often designate one home game each year to celebrate Pride Night by raising money for charities, including queer activists in pregame ceremonies and supplying players with pride-themed jerseys and stick tape to use during warmups. Hundreds of Pride Nights have taken place without controversy: teams capitalized upon the opportunity to engage with a marginalized corner of the communities they represent, while fans loved seeing their favorite players support an important cause. Just last March, for instance, the Colorado Avalanche flooded Twitter with words of encouragement, special messages from players and educational material.  

However, in January, two teams fell short in delivering a Pride Night the queer community deserves. 

On Jan. 17, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov declined to skate in the Flyers’ warmups to avoid wearing the Pride Night jersey for religious reasons. When asked about Provorov’s decision to boycott, Head Coach John Tortorella defended him, praising him for being “true to himself and his religion.” Not only did Provorov’s decision alienate the queer community, it meant the Flyers could not auction off his warmup jersey and stick for Flyers Charities.  

Ten days later on Jan. 27, the New York Rangers hosted their Pride Night. All seemed well: the Rangers included André Thomas, the co-chair of NYC Pride, in a ceremonial puck drop; invited Michael James Scott, an openly gay Broadway star, to sing the national anthem; and donated to the Ali Forney Center, an organization that works to support homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

Nevertheless, the organization failed in one major, extremely visible way. 

None of the players wore their Pride warmup jerseys, even though the organization advertised such in a Jan. 8 email.

“The Rangers will be showing their support by donning pride-themed warm-up jerseys and tape in solidarity with those who continue to advocate for inclusivity,” the Jan. 8 email read.

The New York Post reported the NHL did not recommend the Rangers forgo the jerseys, and players were unaware they were not wearing them. Similarly, the Rangers did not communicate their decision to NYC Pride before the game, signifying a lack of understanding of how the decision would taint the night. 

While there are some differences between how the two Pride Nights unfolded, the takeaway from NHL journalists, commentators and LGBTQ+ fans was largely the same: both organizations let the queer community down.  

Both teams took the easy way out. The Flyers empowered Provorov’s individual decision to opt out of wearing the pride jersey, and the Rangers decided to ditch the pride jerseys altogether, perhaps to protect a player who might have made the same decision as Provorov. 

When push came to shove, both teams chose convenience over equality and inclusivity.  

It is disappointing to see teams fold so easily when pressured on the fundamental rights of the communities they claim to support, especially in a sport where grit and bravery are so central to its ethos.

In a perfect world, every player would be thrilled to put on a pride jersey, and every owner would jump at the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. But we do not live in that world — the exact reason why these Pride Nights are so meaningful and important in the first place.  

Pride Nights challenge the deep-seated homophobia that exists in the sport, and the past weeks have certainly proved how present discrimination still is within the NHL. In some respects, it is encouraging that the NHL is willing to embrace this challenge to any degree, but teams should be ready to reaffirm their values when they encounter pushback. 

Both the Flyers and Rangers caved instead. Tortorella publicly defended Provorov, and the Rangers issued a vague statement voicing support for “everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.” 

The truth is that it is not respectable or admirable for anyone to express or be true to their beliefs if those beliefs deny queer people equality, humanity and dignity. If the NHL is truly going to try to be an ally to queer people, players, teams and the league itself need to make it clear that it is not going to validate or commend ideologies that are antithetical to allyship.

Erin Casey is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. Breaking the Ice appears online and in print every three weeks.

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