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A Movement, Not a Jersey: The NHL's Evolving Approach to Pride Jerseys

Updated: Feb 20

At You Can Play, we are staunch advocates for equality and inclusivity in sports. Recent developments in the NHL regarding the use of 'Pride jerseys' during pregame warmups have sparked an important conversation about acceptance and representation within professional hockey. In this blog post, we explore the NHL's decision to forego special jerseys for themed nights this season, and how the clubs and You Can Play are still focused on inclusion as a core part of NHL hockey.

The NHL's decision not to have teams wear special Pride-themed jerseys during pregame warmups in the upcoming season has generated mixed reactions. Many saw it as a step back from the league's efforts to promote inclusivity, while others view it as an opportunity to address the underlying issue at hand.

Although an unfortunate decision, remove celebration jerseys from pre-game warm ups will not slow down the progress and effort NHL Clubs have made on making hockey for everyone. The core values of inclusion shine brightly in the team's pride initiatives and are on track to be bigger and better in the 2023-24 season. The support, visibility, fundraising and positive change is already in the planning stages for the pride games and we are here for it.

Now we must dig in and get creative on how to ensure the voices of 99% of players, staff, fans

and community who wish to support LGBTQ+ inclusion are still heard. The work to make locker rooms, board rooms, and arenas safer, more diverse, and more inclusive needs to be ongoing and purposeful, and we see new and engaging approaches to this work as the political climate and wedge issue politics permeate our sport.

The work has never stopped, but redoubles today to ensure all are welcome in light of policies that prioritize a small group’s opinions over a larger movement towards inclusion.

It's worth noting that the controversy arises from a handful of players who refused to wear the rainbow-colored Pride jerseys in the past season. While this refusal has been met with disappointment by many in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, it also highlights the complexities surrounding inclusivity in professional sports and the athletics sector in general.

Promoting inclusivity in sports isn't merely about changing jerseys; it's about transforming the culture of the sport itself. It's crucial to remember that promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports is a long-term endeavor, and there will inevitably be backward steps while we run this race. It requires ongoing commitment, education, and dialogue. The NHL's decision can be seen as a pause to reflect on how to best champion inclusivity in a way that resonates with all players and fans.

Some ways we can all recommit to Allyship:

  1. Recommit to Pride: Your organization, team, league, company, friend and family can all commit to continuing and even redoubling your approach to advocacy and allyship for the LGBTQ+ community. This is a crucial time to use your voice and your influence to protect and defend those in the LGBTQ+ community, as the increase of rhetoric has directly contributed to the increase of violence against the community. Sports are for everyone, and we need your voice and influence now more than ever!

  2. Use Jerseys Elsewhere: Don't give up on producing Pride jerseys for use in your community, auction to support the LGBTQ+ efforts, and to bring important visibility to young hockey players wondering if this sport is for them. Your players in these jerseys can happen off the ice, at events, etc. This visibility is a great opportunity for visibility and for merchandising opportunities that help organizations like You Can Play continue advocacy work.

  3. Activate the Community: Activating with the greater community will ensure an authentic and valuable connection. We are here to help guide you in using key education and programs to support the LGBTQ+ community and sport inclusion. We can help your organization activate with other local LGBTQ+ and non-profit organizations to solidify your commitment to inclusivity, and authentically accomplish your goals.

At You Can Play, we stand firm in our commitment to creating a more inclusive sporting world. We understand that progress may face obstacles along the way, but we also believe that challenges are opportunities for growth. Let's use this moment to recommit ourselves to fostering acceptance, representation, and understanding in professional sports and beyond.

The NHL's decision not to use Pride jerseys for themed nights is a reminder that the journey toward inclusivity in sports is not finished, and needs our support. It calls for continued efforts to educate and engage with athletes, fans, and stakeholders about the importance of embracing diversity in hockey and all sports. Together, we can build a more inclusive and accepting sporting community, and keep hockey strong!

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