The National Hockey League (NHL) will no longer require teams to wear themed jerseys, including Pride Night or any specialty night games during warmups.
The decision follows several teams deciding against wearing Pride-themed jerseys during the 2022-2023 season.
“I’ve suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warmups because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs in some form or another host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” NHL’s commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet in an exclusive interview following the NHL’s Board of Governors meeting on Thursday.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted the decision to do away with themed-jerseys during warmups occured during Pride Month, to which Bettman reiterated the jerseys caused a “distraction” from teams celebrating Pride by hosting their own events.
“This way we’re keeping the focus on the game,” Bettman said, adding specialty nights would focus on Pride celebration.
NHL bans LGBTQ Pride jerseys for teams during games and warm-ups pic.twitter.com/ZUaceIwdY8
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“All of those nights will continue,” he said. “The only difference will be we’re not going to change jerseys for warmup because that’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are.”
The NHL commissioner also confirmed Pride-themed jerseys would continue to be produced and sold. Players will also still be allowed to choose to model the jerseys.
Brothers Eric and Marc Stall, who both play for the Florida Panthers, declined to wear Pride jerseys during a March game this year due to Christian beliefs.
“We carry no judgement on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey,” they said in a statement. “Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a Pride jersey, it goes against our Christian beliefs.”
Along with the Staal brothers, a series of fellow NHL players — including San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov — have declined to wear Pride jerseys due to religious objections.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin declined to participate in a March warmup in which the team was slated to wear Pride jerseys, citing fear of retribution over a so-called “anti-gay Kremlin law” in his home country of Russia.
The Chicago Blackhawks also unanimously decided against players wearing pride jerseys, citing the “anti-gay law” in Russia out of concern and safety for one Russian player and two other players with connection to the country.