June 21, 2024

All 32 NHL teams have Pride Nights or a similarly designated night to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

Those celebrations will apparently be a bit less colorful this season.

First, the league announced this summer that players will no longer be allowed to wear specialty jerseys during warm ups, a decision that came months after a handful of players objected to wearing Pride Night-themed jerseys.

And now, players will no longer be able to wrap their sticks with Pride Tape — a rainbow-colored adhesive product that launched in 2016 with the NHL’s assistance — for any on-ice activities, according to Jeff McLean, co-founder of the Pride Tape company.

McLean confirmed the news to The Times during a phone interview Tuesday. He said the company hadn’t received any official notification from the NHL, but within the past week “we had received notification from friends in the organization that said this year there would be no Pride Tape on ice during warm ups, as there had been in the past.”

Pride Tape also addressed the matter in a statement later Tuesday morning.

“The league has used language in recent days which would prohibit the tape from any proximity to NHL Hockey,” the statement reads. “We hope the league — and teams — will again show commitment to this important symbol of combating homophobia. Many of the players themselves have been exceptional advocates for the tape.”

Outsports reported the Pride Tape ban Monday, stating that “a league spokesperson has confirmed this change in policy.” The NHL has yet to comment publicly on the situation and did not respond to questions from The Times for this story.

You Can Play — a social activism project that is an official partner of the NHL — expressed disappointment with the move in a statement released to The Times.

“It is now clear that the NHL is stepping back from its longstanding commitment to inclusion, and continuing to unravel all of its one-time industry-leading work on 2SLGBTQ+ belonging,” the organization stated.

“We are now at a point where all the progress made, and relationships established with our community, is in jeopardy. Making decisions to eradicate our visibility in hockey — by eliminating symbols like jerseys and now Pride Tape — immediately stunts the impact of bringing in more diverse fans and players into the sport.”

According to its website, the Canada-based Pride Tape began as a grassroots collective of individuals “who saw a need to help make sport more inclusive for LGBTQ+ youth, athletes, coaches and fans” and created a product that could be “used as a symbol of inclusion at all levels of sport.”

McLean said the NHL played a key role from the beginning.

“We’ve always had an amazing relationship, partnership with the NHL,” McLean said. “In fact, if it wasn’t for the NHL and the Edmonton Oilers, we never would have got this idea off the ground seven years ago.”

According to McLean, the league helped his company reach its Kickstarter goal to print its first 10,000 rolls of tape.

“And from that, the NHL contacted us and said whatever we can do to help, we’re all in. And they have been for the last, coming up to seven years this December,” he said. “And all 32 teams were on board immediately, including the Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Knights, who hadn’t played a game yet in the NHL.”

Even now, McLean said, Pride Tape is receiving tremendous support from teams and individuals within the NHL, with many of them saying they look forward to working with the company again. McLean said in the past teams have auctioned off items such as sticks wrapped with Pride Tape to support You Can Play or other organizations, and he hopes those efforts and others will continue despite the on-ice ban.

He added that the extra attention the company has received in recent days has actually provided a boost, with other leagues and sports worldwide looking to add some multi-colored tape to their Pride Night festivities.

“We had a request last week from a rugby tournament in the U.K., the Canadian Hockey League, which has teams in Canada and the U.S., all the junior leagues across North America are receiving tape now for their upcoming Pride Nights,” McLean said. “So, yeah, with this exception, it’s business as usual.”

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