While Ivan Provorov’s decision not to participate in Tuesday night’s Pride Night activities has created a significant controversy in the media, the Flyers insist it hasn’t affected team unity.
Provorov chose not to wear a Pride Night jersey or participate in the team’s usual pre-game skate before the encounter against the Anaheim Ducks based on what he said are his religious beliefs.
After the game, Provorow, who is of Russian Orthodox faith, said he respects other people’s beliefs but wanted to stay true to his own beliefs, hence the decision not to be involved.
Prior to Thursday morning’s pre-game skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J., coach John Tortorella said he wasn’t concerned that the debate would somehow create a problem in the team’s locker room.
In fact, he went so far as to say a team meeting after the Anaheim game might have a somewhat “unifying’’ affect on the team.
As for a rather loud outcry on public media platforms regarding Provorov’s stance, the coach basically said it is what it is.
“In the meeting after the game, I thought ‘Provy’ really handled himself well,’’ Tortorella said. “It’s a very important social matter.
“Provy did nothing wrong. Just because you don’t agree with his decision doesn’t mean he did anything wrong. He knew there was going to be some blowback here, that’s part of the business.’’
Tortorella said his own thoughts on this matter were partially shaped by former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision a number of years back not to stand during the national anthem.
“He (Kaepernick) was sitting, not kneeling at that time,’’ Tortorella said. “I was asked if a player sits, what would you do? I said the player would sit the rest of the game.
“I was wrong. I learned a lot through that experience. My feelings toward any type of protest to the flag during the anthem, it disgusts me to this day. It shouldn’t be done. Those are my feelings. I can’t push those feelings on to someone else. I was wrong in saying that back then.’’
In a sense, Provorov should at least be allowed to express his beliefs without undue criticism.
That was the same case with Tortorella and Kaepernick.
“Who am I to push my feelings onto someone else,’’ the coach said. “Same situation here. Provy’s not out there banging a drum against pride night. He quietly went about his business. He and I had a number of conversations how we were going to do this.’’
Tortorella revealed that there were several meetings which included one of Pride Night’s key organizers, Scott Laughton, as well as general manager Chuck Fletcher.
“He (Provorov) felt strongly with his beliefs,’’ Tortorella said. “He stayed with it. I’m trying to make a correlation to how I was wrong (with Kaepernick). You asked if I was going to bench him. Why would I bench him? Because of the decision he’s making on his beliefs?
“It turned out to be a great night. Players were involved, the building was filled. Provy didn’t try to make a stand against it. I respect him for his decision. I thought the team handled themselves well. I thought the whole organization handled themselves well to make sure we didn’t lose sight of that night.’’
Along with Laughton, James van Riemsdyk is a main figure in this program.
The Middletown, N.J. native believes the Flyers remain united as a team, even if there happens to be someone who doesn’t agree with all of its activities.
“Ultimately we’re going out there to do a job,’’ JVR said. “We are pulling in the same direction, it’s important for us to have that to have success. Over the course of my career, there have been different people from different backgrounds. You’re never going to be in full agreement or see the world the same way as other people do.
“It (unity) is part of being a professional, being prepared everyday. The better you get to know people, the more candid and honest you can be with them about different topics. That’s important about having a good locker room.’’