Never has the color of a hockey stick tape or a jersey caused so much controversy, particularly now when we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the 21st century.
Aren’t we supposed to be advancing toward learning to live peacefully with one another, even if there are those who have different personal identities?
The whole point of organized sports is to have fun and we would be the last to suggest that the mixing of them with the serious business of politics might be a good idea.
However, it would be an extremely long stretch to characterize multi-color stick tape as anything much more than recognizing the existence of the LBGQT+ segment of our population. And making that group feel welcome at hockey games.
Which is why the whole business with the NHL’s banning of the much-debated tape – and subsequent reinstatement – is rather confusing.
Only about seven NHL players, including former Flyer defenseman Ivan Provorov (now with Columbus), refused to participate in Pride Night activities last season because, at least in Provorov’s case, of what he said were his religious beliefs (Russian Orthodox). Their stance seemed to be the foundation for why the NHL chose to ban the tape in the first place.
When players such as the Flyers’ Scott Laughton announced their intention to violate the ban and use the tape anyway, that set the wheels of protest in motion.
Then, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott took the first bold step and used the Pride Tape in a game just over a week ago.
Other players were set to do the same when the league announced the repeal.
“Players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season,” the NHL said as it announced a loosening of its restrictions on theme nights, such as Pride Night.
Pride Tape was introduced around seven years ago as a way to show inclusion and support for young LGBTQ+ athletes who might otherwise quit playing ice hockey rather than face homophobia and discrimination.
Under the new policy, players get to choose if they want to use the tape, particularly on Pride Night, which for the Flyers will take place on Jan. 10 with the Montreal Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center.
“To be honest, I think it’s what it should be,” Laughton said this past Tuesday after a practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “If you want to use the tape, you use it, and if you don’t, you don’t. So I think the league got it right on this one.
“I think you’ll probably see a couple guys on our team use it for our Pride Night. And you continue to be active in the community and do what I’ve been doing for the last year and a half. . .continue to provide people an accepting game of hockey that they can come to.”
Without question, there is support for the gay community within the league player ranks but not everyone is ready to just come right out and express that feeling in public.
Yet, many are willing to accept the idea and participate.
“That’s the point of it, to educate people and to know what people go through on a daily basis, that are gay or queer and have to go through being judged and being looked at differently,” Laughton said.
“If you can be a voice or someone to be counted on, then you do it that way.”
Laughton is hoping the concept of Pride Night will be kept in place. There’s still the matter of whether the NHL eventually will reverse its ruling on the wearing of the special jerseys during the Pride Night pre-game warm-up session.
“To have days like this really matter, I think,” Laughton said. “You can wear a jersey for 15 minutes and still have an impact. It’s about having people at the games and supporting them that way and it can make a world of a difference.”