Anthony Duclair was puzzled by the NHL’s decision to ban specialty warm-up jerseys, like Pride jerseys.
“I know a lot of guys are supportive of that. I have no problem in the past to do it. It sucks that’s not going to be part of the league moving forward,” Duclair, who has worn both Pride jerseys and used Pride tape on his sticks in previous years, told San Jose Hockey Now. “It’s a little weird to me, a little puzzling to me.”
And now, the league has prohibited Pride tape.
Although players, per ESPN, “can voluntarily participate in themed celebrations off the ice, the updated guidance reaffirmed that on-ice player uniforms and gear worn in warmups, official team practices and games cannot be altered to reflect ‘specialty’ theme nights.
“An NHL spokesperson told ESPN that Pride tape had been allowed for years as an exception to its stick tape restrictions, which otherwise would allow players to use only black or white tape. The league said the current ban on Pride tape was to prevent teams and players from using it as an ‘end around’ to violate the new uniform policy.”
So players now won’t even have the choice to support the causes, on the ice, that they want.
“For me, you’re also banning Black History Month,” the San Jose Sharks winger, of Haitian descent and also an outspoken member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, opined. “I think we’re taking a step backwards, to be honest.”
While teams will still have Black History and Pride Nights – the San Jose Sharks will celebrate Pride on Jan. 27 and Black History on Feb. 29 – the players, apparently, won’t be allowed to represent either on the ice, be it on their jerseys or sticks or skates or any part of their gear.
“Stickers and ribbons are also banned from player uniforms,” according to ESPN, “although coaches are allowed to wear ribbons.”
All these guidelines might affect Duclair, who famously, before Martin Luther King Day during the 2020-21 season, wore skates that featured, per The Athletic, “the letters ‘BLM’ to support the Black Lives Matter movement, a raised fist logo and the phrase ‘Change Hockey Culture.’ The left skate also [featured] the logo of the Hockey Diversity Alliance.”
Duclair isn’t sure if such on-ice statements are now banned during Black History Night.
“That’s something I’ll have to ask,” he said. It sure looks like it though.
But one thing that Duclair knows, the NHL, is once again, falling behind other leagues, by not opening the door for new fans to feel welcome.
“That’s why the NBA, NFL, leagues like that, they’re always growing year after year, always getting new fans, new viewership,” he said.
For his part, the San Jose Sharks star isn’t going to stop supporting the causes that he cares about, as we can see in the work with his Duclair Foundation.
“As a league-wide thing, they’re gonna do what they feel is necessary. But I think as individuals, you got to step up and keep pushing the message forward to the fans, to include new fans,” he said. “That’s on the players. The league can force whatever rules they made, but each player here has a voice of their own.”
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