The NHL has dropped a mandate that its players cannot express support for groups or causes during on-ice warmups before games, the league said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The decision came three days after Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott became the first player to defy the NHL’s edict played with Pride Tape on the shaft of his stick during Arizona’s 2-1 victory over Anaheim.
“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,” the league said in a statement released on social media and the league’s media site.
The decision is only a partial reversal of a policy that prohibits players from wearing pride jerseys in games or during warmups, as some teams have done, on Pride Night or Hockey is for Everybody Night. That’s still the case, but initially, the league told teams that players could not use ice time to express their support for any cause in any way, which included using Pride Tape to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
The league bundled that decision into a wide-ranging ban on all on-ice “cause messaging,” but it was clear the edict was aimed at LGTBQ+ support after the league and players had to answer questions about why a handful of players refused to wear Pride Night jerseys.
The decision was criticized by some players and support groups, including Twin Cities Pride, one of many groups to work with the Wild on the team’s inclusion initiatives.
“The Wild have been a great ally,” TCP executive director Andi Otto told the Pioneer Press after news of the NHL’s decision broke this month. “This isn’t a Wild thing. We realize this is the NHL stopping it, not the Wild.”
Dermott told the Athletic’s Chris Johnston on Tuesday that he did it because there are some people who don’t feel welcome in the hockey community. “Once we stop thinking about that, I think that’s when it gets dangerous,” he said.
The Wild’s Pride Night is scheduled for March 12.