On Tuesday, the National Hockey League (NHL) revised its guidance on players being able to support social causes using symbolic tape on their sticks after it had previously banned rainbow-colored tape for Pride nights and any other symbolic tape for theme nights.
In a statement on its website, the NHL announced, “After consultation with the NHL Players' Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, Players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season.”
Former player Brock McGillis told ESPN this is a win for freedom of choice. “I'm a big believer in freedom of choice. While I might have been disappointed, I didn't criticize any players for not wearing a [Pride] jersey, because that's their right to choose. I think it should be a player's right to use the tape they want to, that's been sanctioned by the NHL for years. For me, this is a big win for freedom of choice,” he said.
“That said, we need to get back to a point where we're focused on informed decision-making and recognizing impact,” McGillis added.
Earlier this month, the league sent out a memo that explained and updated guidance it had made in regards to participation in theme nights. The guidance noted that players would not be allowed to alter their equipment in any way no matter the cause whether it be Pride, military appreciation, or Hockey Fights Cancer.
After the memo was sent out, some players expressed disappointment in the league's ruling. Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid said, “I've expressed disappointment in not being able to wear the various jerseys or the tapes … whether that's Pride tape or pink tape … Is it something that I'd like to see back into place one day? Certainly.”
“It's not like I'm shutting up and going away,” Arizona Coyotes player Travis Demott, who was one of the first to use Rainbow-colored tape, said. “I know more questions are going to be coming. We're just going to be as prepared as we can be to just spread love. That's the thing. It's gay pride that we're talking about, but it could be men's health. It could be any war. It's just wanting world peace. Everyone's got to love each other a little bit more.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet at the time “The only difference this year is we're asking the clubs not to employ use of the players on the ice.” He added, “We had some issues last year with players feeling uncomfortable supporting certain causes and we didn't want our players to be put in that situation going forward.”
Last season several players refused to participate in warm-ups because they refused to wear the Pride night jerseys. The Philadelphia Flyers Ivan Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox faith as his reasoning for not participating. Commissioner Daly said the league didn't want players like Provorov to feel as though they were being put in a “difficult position” if they chose not to partake in the theme night displays.