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Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid says specialty jersey ban is ‘disappointing to see’

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Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
10 months ago
Connor McDavid and other prominent NHL’ers have voiced their displeasure at the league eliminating specialty warmup jerseys ahead of next season
The controversial move was announced last week by commissioner Gary Bettman, who called them “distracting” after multiple players refused to wear Pride jerseys during warmups last season.
McDavid, whose Edmonton Oilers were among the first teams to recognize Pride at a NHL rink, called the move “disappointing.”
“I certainly can’t speak for every organization, [but] I know in Edmonton, we were one of the first teams to use the Pride Tape,” McDavid told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. “I know in Edmonton, in our dressing room, we strongly feel hockey is for everybody and that includes the Pride nights and stuff like that.
“So of course it’s disappointing to see. With that being said, that’s certainly way above my decision. It’s not my call, but it’s disappointing to see.
“Everyone has their beliefs. I can’t speak on those. All I can speak for is myself and us in Edmonton, and I know we strongly support those types of nights.”
As noted by McDavid, the Oilers have been among the foremost teams in supporting the LGBTQ+ community. In 2016, they became the first NHL team to use Pride Tape doing so during their skills competition and since then, the team has featured it multiple times. It’s been a staple at their Pride night ceremonies.
This past season, then-Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov was the first to sit out from a warmup where Pride jerseys were being worn citing his religious beliefs. San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer, as well as Florida Panthers’ Eric and Marc Staal followed suit. The Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers all changed course on plans for their players to wear Pride jerseys. Eric Staal had previously worn a Pride jersey during warmups when he played for the Montreal Canadiens.
McDavid wasn’t the only NHL’er to voice their displeasure of the jersey ban, which also disallows the use of Hockey Fights Cancer, Military Night, or other nights were teams, like the Oilers, celebrate their local Indigenous community.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who on Monday night won the Mark Messier leadership award, told Wyshynski that he thinks the stories should be about the success of the Pride jerseys, or whichever other specialty jersey was worn that night
“Obviously a tricky situation,” Stamkos admitted. “I think guys should have the right to do what they want. I think that the thing that is disappointing is when you had players who decided not to wear the jersey or warmup, that they were the headline of the story.
“It wasn’t 98 or 99 percent of other players that wore the jersey and enjoyed wearing it and were proud wearing it — whatever jersey it was, whether it was the Pride, the military night, the cancer nights. Guys take a lot of pride in wearing those types of jerseys.
“And listen, it should be your decision, but the story shouldn’t be about the guy that didn’t wear it, the one guy or the two guy. I know that’s the world we live in where that’s the story, not the success part. That seems to get lost a lot in the mainstream media these days.
“I understand that’s what gets the clicks and what gets the views, but the word ‘distraction’ gets through around and I don’t think it had to have been a distraction. It could have been a non-issue while focusing on the good that was coming out of those nights and the money that was raised and the players that did wear the jersey those nights. And I think that’s been the unfortunate part of it all.”
Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Kris Letang said wearing a specialty jersey during warmup doesn’t mean the player is fully supporting the cause, but that he understood why the NHL made the move.
“Everything that has happened this year in the league with those jerseys… I thought it was tough to see that some guys didn’t [wear them],” he said. “I understand sometimes why they didn’t, but to me it doesn’t mean that you’re fully supporting or not supporting to make our sport accessible to everybody.
“But I do understand that in some other places in the world, it can be a problem and I can’t really judge or say any anything about what happened. I kind of understand why the league is taking this approach now to not cause any drama or anything bigger than it should be.”

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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