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Canucks will ‘follow the league rules’ on Pride Tape and specialty jerseys

The NHL has banned teams from using specialty jerseys or alterations to gear like Pride Tape for any on-ice activities, including practices and warm-ups.
Quinn Hughes says the Vancouver Canucks will continue to support Pride Night off the ice in response to the NHL's rules regarding specialty jerseys.

Thanks to a ruling by the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks won’t be wearing any specialty jerseys on the ice in the 2023-24 season.

That means no First Nations Celebration jersey or Diwali jersey. No Chinese New Year jersey, Hockey Fights Cancer jersey, or military appreciation jersey. And, of course, that means no Pride Night jersey.  

The latter become a hot-button issue last season when several players, including the Canucks’ Andrei Kuzmenko, refused to wear a Pride Night jersey for warm-ups with the rest of their team. 

In response to these actions by a small subsection of their players, the NHL chose to do away with all specialty jerseys for warm-ups. In a memo sent to teams last week, the NHL clarified that this means any on-ice activity, including practices, and extends not just to specialty jerseys but any alterations to gear.

That means Pride Tape, the rainbow-coloured hockey tape that many teams have used in warm-ups as part of their Pride Night celebrations. Notably, Pride Tape has never been mandated by any team and plenty of players have opted out of using the tape on their own sticks. Now, however, players are not even allowed to voluntarily use Pride Tape.

Some players have even used Pride Tape during games to show their support for the LGBTQ community, including former Canuck Travis Dermott, who typically uses a few inches of Pride Tape on the handle of all of his sticks.

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Several players across the NHL have expressed their disapproval of this blanket policy, including Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid.  

"This organization, with Pride, will always support that."

As for the Canucks, general manager Patrik Allvin said that they’re planning on abiding by the NHL’s ruling.

“Decisions like that, that’s something we follow the NHL, what they recommend,” said Allvin. “I think this organization has done a lot of good things in the community…we will continue to do that. But we definitely follow the league rules and what they’re telling us to do.”

Canucks captain Quinn Hughes expressed his support for Pride Night last season and made it clear that even if they’re barred from showing that support on the ice this season, the team will continue to support Pride Night off the ice.

“I preached it before, last year in this locker room, this organization, with Pride, will always support that,” said Hughes. “It starts at the top of the organization with the Aquilinis on down. Whether we’re wearing the tape or the jerseys, it’s something that we’ll always support. We may not be doing anything on the ice but we’ll still be doing things off the ice to support it.”

Free agent signing Ian Cole is the Canucks’ union representative with the NHLPA and he told Postmedia's Patrick Johnston that the Canucks’ support for Pride Night and other community initiatives was a big reason why he signed in Vancouver.

“I know the reputation that this organization has,” said Cole. “When I came here, it was a really great selling point of this organization — how they approach these things…I think it is very important.”

Cole clearly was not happy about the NHL’s decision to ban specialty jerseys and Pride Tape but said there’s little he or the other players can do.

“I think that the NHL wants zero controversy, which inevitably gave them controversy,” said Cole. “Unfortunately, they are the iron fist there and what they say goes…They’re the ones that make the rules. Unfortunately, as employees, we don’t get a ton of say in it. But I really respect and like what the Vancouver Canucks have done.”

You Can Play project and Pride tape criticize NHL's policy

The makers of Pride Tape released a statement in response to the ban. 

“The Pride Tape team is extremely disappointed by the NHL's decision to eliminate Pride Tape from any league on-ice activities,” read the statement. “We hope the league — and teams — will again show commitment to this important symbol of combating homophobia.”

The You Can Play project likewise released a statement calling out the NHL for this policy.

“It is now clear that the NHL is stepping back from its long-standing commitment to inclusion, and continuing to unravel all of its one-time industry-leading work on 2SLGBTQ+ belonging," said You Can Play. "We are now at a point where all the progress made, and relationships established within our community, are in jeopardy.”

Daily Faceoff’s Matt Larkin asked NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly why the NHL went as far as barring players from choosing to show support for the LGBTQ community with Pride Tape.

“Game/practice restrictions don’t interfere with players’ ability to support in other settings,” said Daly. “In fact, we encourage them to. [We] just don’t want to put other players in a tough spot simply because they don’t choose to join.”