Paul Tuns:

The National Hockey League announced a new policy of disallowing special warm-up jerseys while players skate before games that tied to special causes or celebratory nights. The policy comes after a season during which numerous players refused to don rainbow colored gear during special LGBTQ nights.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at the conclusion of the league’s board of governors meeting, “I suggested it would not be appropriate for clubs to change their jerseys in warm-ups because it’s become a distraction.”

Teams will still be able to choose to mark special occasions such as “pride night,” St. Patrick’s Day, Hockey Fights Cancer, Black History Night, or Military Night, but players will no longer be able to wear theme-coloured warm-up jerseys. All 32 NHL teams hold pride nights and there is every indication they will continue to do so.

You Can Play, a gay advocacy group said it was “concerned and disappointed” by the new policy that was approved by a majority of teams.

Bettman said he hopes the new policy will allow teams to focus on hockey and the causes they celebrate with special promotions, rather than debates about whether players would or would not be wearing novelty jerseys. In the 2022/2023 season just completed, seven players, including Philadelphia Flyer Ivan Provorov, San Jose Shark Jason Reimer, and Florida Marlins Eric and Mark Staal, refused to wear pride-themed rainbow jersey or use rainbow coloured tape on their sticks during warm-ups. The Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers cancelled their pregame pride skate to avoid controversy, although they still held pride night.

Bettman said “all the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various causes have been undermined by the distraction.”

The new policy does not prevent teams from marketing themed jerseys and when The Interim went to press most teams were still offering rainbow-coloured jerseys on their websites.