Add brothers Eric and Marc Staal to the growing list of NHL players who decided not to participate in their team’s Pride Night festivities. In their case, they skipped the Florida Panthers’ pre-game warmups before Thursday’s matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Staal brothers cited religious beliefs as the reason for not participating. Their joint statement reads as follows:
“After many thoughts, prayers and discussions, we have chosen not to wear a pride jersey tonight.
We carry no judgment on how people decide to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey.
Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs.
We hope you can respect this statement, we will not be speaking any further on this matter and would like to continue to focus on the game and helping the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup.”
The Staal brothers’ statement echoed that of James Reimer, who recently skipped the San Jose Sharks’ Pride Night. In some cases — such as those of the Blackhawks, Wild, Islanders and Rangers — entire teams decided not to wear Pride warmup jerseys.
Quite a few reporters point out there is some hesitation due to Russia’s anti-LGBQT “propaganda” law, which was passed in December. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov began this trend back in mid-January.
Clearly, it’s not just Russian players who’ve elected not to wear Pride jerseys, though. It’s also been noted that Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky donned a Pride warmup sweater before the Panthers' game on Thursday, so these decisions don’t appear to be all-or-nothing.
Eric Staal spoke after the game, denying he had ever worn a Pride jersey during his career despite photographic evidence to the contrary.
#FlaPanthers Eric Staal post-game, when told there is photographic evidence of him wearing a pride jersey in Montreal:
“I haven’t before. I never have. … I haven’t worn a pride jersey before.”
(Staal wore No. 21 with the Canadiens during the 2020-21 season.) pic.twitter.com/aHmOgkRNBo
— Erin Brown (@rinkside) March 24, 2023
Following Reimer’s decision last weekend, openly gay Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop shared his disappointment regarding players opting against wearing Pride uniforms, calling it "a step back for inclusion in the NHL."