PFLAG calls out NHL ban on themed jerseys

On July 11, just steps away from where the names of the game’s greats are permanently enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, sat a glass-encased reminder that, contrary to the NHL’s claims, Canada’s national sport is not truly for everyone.

Created by Zulu Alpha Kilo for the 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy organization PFLAG Canada, the “Team Pride” exhibit sat outside the HHOF’s Front St. exterior. It housed a rainbow-esque hockey jersey created by stitching together the uniforms from multiple NHL teams.

According to a release, the jersey stands for acceptance and allyship, communicating to all 2SLGBTQ+ NHL fans that they belong. It was created in response to the league’s recent decision to ban all specialty warm-up jerseys after several players openly resisted wearing jerseys honouring the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Commissioner Gary Bettman told media that the themed jerseys had become a “distraction,” when announcing the ban during Pride Month.

The ban applies to multiple themed nights during the NHL season, from Black History Month to Hockey Fights Canada, but there’s little doubt it was prompted by the outcry over Pride-themed nights—with a total of seven players refusing to don Pride jerseys for political or religious reasons, and teams including the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild cancelling them outright.

“We believe that no player or fan should feel excluded from hockey on the basis of their sexuality or gender expression,” said Ross Wicks, PFLAG Canada’s director of governance. “We hope this initiative will help bring pride jerseys back to the NHL.”

Zulu and its production arm Zulubot also created a video showing reaction to the Team Pride exhibit, and is running on social media accompanied by a hashtag urging the league to #ReverseTheBan.

The NHL’s decision to eliminate the warm-up jerseys met with widespread criticism, with longtime New York Post hockey writer Larry Brooks calling it “cowardly,” and the game’s best player, Connor McDavid, saying that it was “disappointing to see.”

Last month, the Canadian non-profit Get REAL Movement also took aim at the NHL’s jersey ban, partnering with Wunderman Thompson on a program called “Prideless,” which consisted of a Rainbow Flag missing the colours of the three teams that declined participate in Pride-themed activities.

Chris Powell