Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Just two weeks after a controversial policy was revealed to the wider public, the NHL pivoted on an issue that would have become a season-long headache as more players would have chosen to defy it.

A source told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun that the league is rescinding the ban on stick tape that could be used to represent social causes. This comes three days after Arizona Coyotes defensemen Travis Dermott became the first player to openly defy the ban, playing with rainbow-colored stick tape in support of the LGBTQ+ community during the team’s home opener against Anaheim.

The NHL sent memos about on-ice apparel before the season began, stating that the league was restricting themed uniforms and equipment. The memos clarified that players could represent “special causes” as long as they adhered to the team’s dress code. 

The ban was in response to the multiple players who cited their religious beliefs as reasons for not wearing Pride-themed warmups in pre-game skates last season. Several teams, in clumsy attempts to forestall any controversies with their own players who would have done the same, did not roll out their Pride-themed uniforms despite their advanced promotion. However, while attention about the ban has predominately focused on Pride apparel, the NHL’s approach impacted all social causes – from celebrating Black History Month to supporting military personnel in the United States and Canada.

On Monday, our own Chelena Goldman wrote about how bold Dermott’s actions were, considering where he stood on the totem pole of NHL players:

“Whatever the reason, the league’s decision to ban Pride tape has received massive backlash from fans and players alike — and boy, does that decision go against the Hockey Is for Everyone campaign.”There were reports of high-profile players saying they purchased Pride tape on their own and planned on using it. Dermott, a blue-liner on a one-year, two-way contract with a team not projected to make the playoffs, beat everyone to the punch and has made a big impact.”Now, the NHL could still disappoint the hockey world this week and decide to punish Dermott in some way, but at least for now, it’s looking like he might have been the hero needed to get the league to reverse its unnecessary and unpopular ban on Pride tape. Stay tuned.”

While Dermott followed through with his actions, several other players said that they were planning to use the Pride-themed tape despite the now-rescinded ban. Fortunately for the majority of players who were against the league’s initial decision, it took one day and one incident to bring an end to a highly unpopular policy. 

That said, the policy at-large was an unforced error by the NHL. Not only did it go against the spirit of its belief that “Hockey is for Everyone,” but it also appeared to come off as a policy where the players themselves – the ones who are wearing and using the apparel, for the most part – were either not consulted or not fully heard. (The NHL Players’ Association had not formally commented on the matter.) Where this issue stands now with the players – those in open support of certain causes and those who object to such representation – remains to be seen this early in the 2023-24 campaign.

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