PHILADELPHIA – It was supposed to be a night to celebrate inclusion but one member of the Flyers chose not to be included.
The Flyers held their annual Pride Night before and during their game against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.
Among the activities was the wearing of special Pride Night jerseys during pre-game warm-ups.
However, Russian defenseman Ivan Provorov chose not to participate, stating it had to do with his religious beliefs. He did not even come out to skate in the warm-up session.
The Flyers would go on to win the game, 5-2, but a number of players spent the post-game press briefings fielding questions about their reaction to Provorov’s decision.
Provorov did come out to address the matter after the game but was brief with his comments.
“I respect everybody and I respect everybody’s choices,’’ Provorov said. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.’’
Coach John Tortorella made it clear that he respects Provorov’s decision and had no thought of not playing him in the game.
“With ‘Provy,’ he’s being true to himself and to his religion,’’ Tortorella said. “This has to do with himself and his religion. It’s one thing I respect about Provy, he’s always true to himself. And so that’s where we’re at with that.’’
Tortorella said in his opinion the night was a good one.
“I think it was a great night in celebrating,’’ he said. “The organization has put out a statement (about team beliefs), so I’m not going to get too deep into the conversation.’’
Scott Laughton and James van Riemsdyk are the two Flyers most heavily involved in organizing the event.
Like Tortorella, Laughton respects Provorov’s beliefs but one gets the sense he was a little disappointed by having to talk about the issue rather than Pride Night itself.
“Me and JVR just got back from a room with about 50 people from the community,’’ Laughton said. “It was a great night, an amazing initiative and something that’s been close to me for a long time.’’
Laughton was asked if it’s tough to show team unity for something like this when there’s dissent in the locker room.
“I think we’ve had these conversations,’’ Laughton said. “They’re ongoing and I think it’s come a long way. We had a great night, it was awesome seeing all those people. Seeing the signs in warm-up.’’
As for Provorov’s difference of opinion?
“I don’t hold anything against anyone,’’ Laughton said. “It’s nothing like that. I don’t think it (having someone who disagrees with activities such as Pride Night) is concerning. Those conversations will still happen.’’