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Oilers star McDavid among NHLers speaking out against decision to ban Pride Tape

The league's decision to ban Pride Tape isn't sitting well with a number of NHL players — including the world's best.

Just months after expressing his disappointment with the NHL's decision to put a stop to themed warm-up jerseys, Oilers superstar Connor McDavid is also in disagreement with the league over its decision to ban Pride Tape.

"I've enjoyed all the nights that we've celebrated here in Edmonton, whether that's Pride night or military night or Indigenous night, all the various nights that we've had and had a chance to celebrate. I've always enjoyed them. I can't speak for anyone else or the league," the Oilers captain said.

"In terms of a league standpoint, is it something that I'd like to see put back into place one day? Certainly. You know, but that's not the way it is right now," he added.

Oilers forward Zach Hyman joined McDavid in calling the NHL's move disappointing, suggesting the league's players will have to find other ways to support the community.

"We'll be able to support them individually, but collectively that's out of the players control. Disappointing, but out of our control," Hyman told reporters.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly and general manager Brad Treliving also reiterated their support for LGBTQ+ communities earlier Tuesday after the NHL banned the use of Pride Tape for the 2023-24 season.

Pride Tape was used by players as a small act of solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities but the NHL has taken a step backward in its support for queer and trans people throughout the 2023 calendar year.

"A number of NHL players" have expressed interest in buying the product in spite of the ban, Pride Tape’s co-founder, Dr. Kristopher Wells, told Sportsnet's Kristina Rutherford.

Earlier this summer, commissioner Gary Bettman called themed practice jerseys “a distraction” from the goal of the league’s special interest nights.

Morgan Rielly has been a vocal ally of the LGBTQ+ community. (Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images)
Morgan Rielly has been a vocal ally of the LGBTQ+ community. (Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images) (NHLI via Getty Images)

"We'll make sure we continue to find our ways to do the right things to support,” Treliving told reporters Tuesday.

“I wish players had the right to do more and be more involved,” Rielly said Tuesday via Sportsnet’s Luke Fox. “I'm going to continue to be involved in the community and offer support to those communities and those groups that want that, need that.”

Rielly has been a vocal advocate of LGBTQ+ communities throughout his career in Toronto and has taken part in the city’s annual Pride festivities several times. Toronto hosted a Pride Night on April 4 last season and Rielly was excited to participate.

“I think it's a great opportunity for our organization to make everybody feel welcome,” Rielly told Yahoo Sports at the time. “You want Scotiabank Arena to be a place where people feel included, be involved, be a part of what we're doing and it's a great opportunity for us to express that tonight.”

Calgary Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson said he wanted to continue to support LGBTQ+ communities and offered his disappointment with the NHL’s decision.

"It sucks. It’s something that’s close to my heart and something I would love to support, but it is what it is,” Andersson said via TSN’s Salim Nadim Valji.

“It is a sensitive subject for some people. I don't understand why," Andersson said. "...It's not just Pride Tape, it's Hockey Fights Cancer, that's a big one. We've just got to find different ways to support it. It's something so natural to me, so I don't understand it.”

Pride Tape and its partner, You Can Play, released official statements Tuesday outlining their disappointment with the NHL’s decision:

"The league has used language in recent days which would prohibit the tape from any proximity to NHL hockey. We hope the league — and teams — will again show commitment to this important symbol of combating homophobia."

Brian Burke, one of the sport's most vocal allies for LGBTQ+ communities, released a statement on Wednesday expressing his dissatisfaction with the decision, calling it a "surprising and serious setback."

"This new league policy strips clubs and players of one of the most important and visible ways of supporting causes they care about," Burke wrote. "Let’s be clear: this is not inclusion or progress. This decision does not grow the game and does not make our fans feel welcome."