Marc-Andre Fleury was notified that he would be punished if he were to wear a Native American-themed mask during warm-ups on Friday night. He wore it anyway.
Fleury’s Minnesota Wild held a Native American Heritage Night on Friday evening, so the goalie had a mask designed by a member of the Prairie Island Indian Community to honor his wife’s background.
However, over the summer, the NHL banned themed equipment from the ice during warm-ups.
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The NHL announced in June that in order to avoid any “distraction,” themed jerseys and equipment will no longer be worn on the ice. The stance stemmed from when several players and some teams (including the Wild) opted not to wear LGBTQ-themed jerseys during warm-ups on their respective Pride Nights.
However, commissioner Gary Bettman said the ban would be in effect for all theme nights.
Fleury did not appear in the game and did not speak to reporters afterward. The Wild declined comment, while the NHL did not respond to a request for one.
According to Fleury’s agent, he decided to do an about-face with wearing the helmet when the league threatened him with stiffer penalties.
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Bettman said he made his decision on the jerseys in order to keep “the focus on the game.”
“I suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warm-ups, because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs, in some form or another, host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman told SportsNet at the NHL Board of Governors meeting in June.
Bettman even said that theme nights will still occur, jerseys will be sold and designed, and players could even “model them” if they choose.
“It’s really just a question of what’s on the ice,” Bettman said.
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The Rangers and Blackhawks also opted not to wear Pride jerseys despite previously advertising that they would, a phenomenon that was brought upon by Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers. The defenseman said he would not wear a Pride jersey, citing his Russian Orthodox religion. However, the league reversed its ban on Pride tape last month.