NHL teams won’t be wearing special jerseys in warm-ups next season, commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet Thursday after the NHL Board of Governors met. Here’s what you need to know:
- Bettman told governors that all theme nights were important and should be continued, but the uniform has become a distraction and takes away from the positive efforts of teams and the league, and could continue to do so for various tribute nights. , according to a league source.
- Although teams are no longer allowed to wear specialist warm-up shirts, the themed nights they represent, including Pride, Military and Heritage, will continue.
- Last season, several players and teams opted out of wearing Pride warm-up shirts, citing religious reasons or safety concerns.
- Several Russian players chose not to wear the Pride night warm-up shirt as Russian anti-gay laws escalated.
What Bettman said
“I have suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their shirts during warm-ups as this has become a distraction and takes away from the fact that all of our clubs in one form or another have parties in the honor of various groups or causes, and we prefer that these continue to receive the appropriate attention they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman said.
Asked about the move in June, which is Pride month, and the potential for people to feel unwelcome at hockey games, Bettman said, “Well, I agree that this are legitimate concerns, but in the final analysis, all the effort and focus on the importance of these various causes has been undermined by distraction in terms of which teams, which players. In this way, we stay focused on the game and during these specialized evenings, we will focus on the cause.
NHL Team Pride Nights are one of several tribute nights hosted by individual clubs. Teams also wore unique warm-up jerseys honoring the people, traditions and holidays of the cities in which they are based, such as the Vancouver Canucks’ warm-up yarns for Diwali night or the warm-up jerseys specially designed by the Montreal Canadiens for Indigenous celebration evening. Specialized warm-up jerseys have traditionally been worn at league-wide Pride nights and Hockey Fights Cancer nights.
That changed this season when Russia’s anti-gay laws were changed in early December. According to the New York Times, the law makes it “illegal to disseminate ‘propaganda’ about ‘non-traditional sexual relationships’ in all media, including social media, advertising, and movies.”
In response, Russian players like Buffalo Sabers defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin did not wear the jersey, and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ivan Provorov, then of the Philadelphia Flyers, did not participate in warm-ups at all. Some teams, like the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and Minnesota Wild, have ditched warm-up jerseys altogether.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Athleticism in March that the league had no information to suggest its Russian players faced “material” threats, either in Russia or elsewhere, if they chose to participate in the teams’ Pride Night activities.
(Photo: Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)