On a Thanksgiving Monday, in the city where Pride tape was born, it felt like the opposite of Thanksgiving for many 2SLGBTQIA+ hockey fans, myself included. After the campaigns the NHL has held with the “Hockey Is For Everyone” slogan, the NHL’s decision to ban pride tape felt like a major slap in the face to LGBT hockey fans everywhere.
The worst part of the ban is that players weren’t required to use Pride Tape in pre-game warmups anyways. If you didn’t want to or couldn’t use Pride tape then there was nothing stopping you from doing warmups without it.
On October 24th, the NHL announced that the ban was reversed after Travis Dermott used it on the shaft of his hockey stick, something he has always done. But it’s still worth asking: Why did this ban even occur in the first place?
To start, this was an extension of a moratorium on specialty-themed jerseys, which occurred after multiple players opted out of wearing Pride jerseys. While still a questionable decision to many (it’s vexing and a step backwards) that move at least had some more basis to it. The league kept it fair and banned all specialty jerseys. Still questionable, but at least they didn’t single out one cause.
The Pride tape ban was an extension of that jersey ban, but a much more problematic aspect. Rule 10 of the NHL’s rulebook states that players may use tape of any colour on their sticks, as pointed out by Gord Miller on X. In addition, by not being mandatory, players could opt out of using Pride tape without any repercussions if they had faith-based reasoning.
The only part that made sense about the Pride Tape ban is the protection of Russian players. Those who have to return home in the off-season could be ostracised given the anti-LGBT laws in Russia. There’s uncertainty about what would happen if a Russian NHL player is openly, or passively, supporting Pride. This is understandable. But this is where the NHL could also come up with better guidelines to help keep them safe if allowing them to opt out of using Pride tape doesn’t do the job well enough. It was indicated to The Athletic that the jerseys weren’t likely to put Russian players in danger. Never mind simply being on the same rink as a Pride-taped stick.
The response from players and staff to the ban was overwhelmingly negative. Seeing such an amazing outpour of support from NHLers in the game today was quite uplifting for the LGBT hockey community. And now, the league has reversed their course, which is the correct decision to make. Because hockey is, and should always be, for everyone.