Once again, Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers’ luminary, found himself at odds with an NHL policy. Earlier this year, he articulated his “disappointment” at the league’s decision to suspend the use of thematic jerseys during warm-up sessions, a directive that included Pride jerseys. This Tuesday, he further voiced his disagreement with the league’s recent memo prohibiting the use of Pride tape.
“Would I like to see these element reintroduced at some point? Undoubtedly,” He expressed his standpoint to reporters at Rogers Place. “But, as it stands right now, this is the realm we inhabit.”
In June, the NHL reached a conclusion to prevent teams from wearing themed jerseys during warm-ups, triggered by a few players’ reticent participation during Pride nights. The NHL cited the players’ abstention and the ensuing controversies as distractions sanctioning the decision.
Last week saw the NHL communicating to teams to further clarify their policy, which now includes an embargo on the use of rainbow-hued stick tape. Bill Daly, the Deputy NHL Commissioner, validated the memo’s existence to The Associated Press this Tuesday, shortly before the season’s commencement.
“It’s a subject I’ve vocalized before. My stance is no secret,” McDavid, a three-time NHL MVP, confided.
Celebrating special nights in Edmonton — Pride night, military night, Indigenous night have always been occasions of joy for him, although he refrained from commenting about other players or the league’s opinion on the matter.
Echoing McDavid’s disappointment, Zach Hyman, another Oilers’ stalwart, maintained his support for the LGBTQ2S+ community, despite the ban on Pride tape.
“Personally, I relished wearing the Pride jersey and using the Pride tape, along with the military jersey. We commemorated Willie O’Ree night, Indigenous night, things we staunchly support,” Hyman elucidated to reporters.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman, Morgan Rielly, expressed a similar sentiment, expressing his wish for players to have more freedom to interact and involve themselves.
The NHL rule received severe criticism from Pride Tape’s co-founder, who is an associate professor at MacEwan University in Edmonton, for being “immoral and illegal.”
“This policy unlawfully impinges on the player’s freedom of expression, a right that’s protected, as there isn’t any NHL rule that inhibits a player from using Pride Tape,” Dr. Kristopher Wells stated on a social media platform.
Likewise, You Can Play (YCP), an organization that collaborates with leagues including the NHL to advocate for safety and inclusion, strongly reproved the league’s memo. They lamented that the NHL was receding from their promise of inclusion, placing their previously successful relationship with the community at risk.