You Can Play 'concerned and disappointed' by NHL's decision to drop Pride-themed warmup jerseys

The non-profit organization said they will continue to work with the NHL to make hockey more inclusive for all.

You Can Play, a major not-for-profit advocate in the sports world for the inclusion of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals, has spoken out against the NHL’s decision to drop themed warmup jerseys, particularly related to Pride nights.

The organization, which is an official partner of the NHL and NHLPA, said via a statement released on Thursday they are "concerned and disappointed" by the decision.

We understand that the NHL Board of Governors has made the decision to eliminate the wearing of Pride jerseys — and all other specialty jerseys supporting cancer, the military and others — by players on the ice in pre-game warmups.

For the past 12 years, we have worked alongside the NHL on advancing visibility and acceptance of the 2SLQBTQ+ community across all aspects of hockey with one purpose — a true sense of belonging for all. The important work has resulted in substantial progress for over a decade and has made the NHL a leader among major sporting organizations.

With that said, we are concerned and disappointed by this decision. Today's decision means that the over 95% of players who chose to wear a Pride jersey to support the community will now not get an opportunity to do so. Pride nights will continue and we look forward to further enhancing the programming these opportunities bring to the mission of inclusion and belonging for the 2SLGBTQ+ community given this restriction.

As we have stated in the past, no one aspect is the be all for showing support and Pride must be 365. The work to make locker rooms, board rooms and arenas safer, more diverse, and more inclusive needs to be ongoing and purposeful, and we will continue to work with our partners at the NHL, including individual teams, players, agents and the NHLPA to ensure this critical work continues.

The release stems from a decision made by the NHL at Thursday’s Board of Governor meetings, with the league unilaterally removing themed warmup jerseys from on-ice action due to concerns that they had become a distraction.

“All the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various causes have been undermined by the distraction in terms of which teams, which players,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. “This way, we’re keeping the focus on the game. And on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause.”

Pride-themed NHL jerseys will no longer be worn by players during warmups. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Pride-themed NHL jerseys will no longer be worn by players during warmups. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) (NHLI via Getty Images)

Bettman also assured that Pride nights themselves would not be going anywhere and that the jerseys would continue to be designed and auctioned off for charitable causes.

The issue became a flashpoint topic last season when Ivan Provorov, then with the Philadelphia Flyers, did not participate in warmups or wear the jersey due to what he cited as religious beliefs. Others, including Eric and Marc Staal, and James Reimer, later followed suit for similar reasons.

In addition to religious beliefs, multiple Russian players opted not to participate in their respective team’s efforts due to varying personal reasons, while three teams — the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks — opted to drop their Pride-themed jerseys altogether.