The Minnesota Wild’s second annual Pride Night sparked confusion Tuesday after the team scrapped one of the planned events with little warning or explanation.
Although some Wild players had rainbow-colored tape on their sticks during warmups, they did not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys. The jerseys had been advertised in advance of the game, along with the team’s plans to auction them off.
Michael Russowho covers the Minnesota Wild and the NHL for The Athletic, tweeted that the jersey change was an “organizational decision.”
“The Minnesota Wild organization is proud to continue our support of the LGBTQIA+ community by hosting our second annual Pride Night tonight, which we are celebrating in many ways. It is important to host nights like this to show all players, fans, and the LGBTQIA+ community that hockey is for everyone. We will continue to utilize our platform to strengthen our community and create a greater state of hockey,” the team said in a statement, according to The Athletic.
With Tuesday’s jersey controversy, the Wild became the third team in as many months to face pushback over its handling of Pride Night.
First, in January, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov chose not to participate in Pride Night warmups due to his faith-based concerns about the Pride-themed jerseys players were expected to wear. He still played in the game, leading some observers to criticize the team for not holding him out, as the Deseret News previously reported.
Then, later that same month, the New York Rangers left their Pride-themed gear in the locker room during warmups despite advertisements saying festive warmup jerseys would be part of the event.
“The Rangers promoted Pride Night to fans by saying players ‘will be showing their support by donning pride-themed warm-up jerseys and tape in solidarity with those who continue to advocate for inclusivity,'” ESPN reported at the time.
The decisions made by those teams and players prompted reflection on the NHL’s ongoing effort to support the LGBTQ community. Some wondered why the league would tolerate protests like Provorov’s, while others said it’s important to focus on positive change rather than fixate on scandal.
“As disappointed as I am, it’s important that people realize these are setbacks of a minor nature, in my view, in terms of where we are, versus where we were 12 years ago. And I don’t think anyone should lose sight of that,” said Brian Burke, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ president of hockey operations, to The Athletic in January.
Burke has been an advocate for LGBTQ players and coaches since his son, Brendan, came out as gay in 2009.
Still others have questioned why NHL teams are asking, if not requiring, players to support causes they might not agree with. Some members of this camp took to Twitter on Tuesday to praise the Wild for ditching the Pride-themed warmup jerseys.
As Russo noted in his tweet, the jerseys were a small part of a larger celebration. The Wild’s Tuesday game against the Calgary Flames still involved special guests from the LGBTQ community, Pride-themed warmup pucks and an appearance from Jack Jablonski, a former Minnesota high school hockey star who recently came out as gay.
The Flames beat the Wild 1-0 in the Pride Night game in a shootout.