NHL bans use of Pride Tape on ice in updated guidance for theme nights

The NHL announced in June that teams would no longer be permitted to wear specialty jerseys as a part of theme night initiatives after several players decided not to participate in wearing Pride Night warmup sweaters last season. 

The league doubled down and informed teams last week they will also no longer be permitted to use rainbow stick tape. 

Pride tape hockey stick

A stick during warmups in support of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative during Pride Night prior to a game at the United Center March 5, 2020, in Chicago.  (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Associated Press Tuesday that the league issued a memo to all 32 teams last week clarifying the rules players must abide by for theme nights.


It included a ban on Pride Tape for sticks and reaffirmed that specialty sweaters for themed nights, including Pride, Hockey Fights Cancer or military appreciation celebrations, will not be permitted on the ice. 

ESPN first reported about the memo last week. According to a league source, the memo reportedly stated that “players should be encouraged to express themselves off the ice.” 

Pride Tape, the makers of the athletic tape, released a statement on social media addressing the “setback.” 

“The Pride Tape team is extremely disappointed by the NHL’s decision to eliminate Pride Tape from any league on-ice activities,” the statement said in part. 


“The league has used language in recent days which would prohibit the tape from any proximity to NHL Hockey. We hope the league — and teams — will again show commitment to this important symbol of combating homophobia. Many of the players themselves have been exceptional advocates for the tape.

“Thank you to everyone around the world who has had the courage to speak up for inclusion and stand up to the idea that Hockey is For Everyone. Despite this setback, we are encouraged for what lies ahead based on our recent conversations from every corner of the sport.

Hockey player with Pride Tape

Florida Panthers goaltender Alex Lyon (34) warms up while celebrating Pride Night with a colorful hockey stick before playing the Toronto Maple Leafs, March 23, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin, File)

The You Can Play Project, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ participation in sports and has partnered with the NHL for the past decade, also released a statement condemning the league’s decision.

“It is now clear that the NHL is stepping back from its longstanding commitment to inclusion and continuing to unravel all of its one-time industry-leading work on 2SLGBTQ+ belonging,” the YCP Project said in a statement. 


“We are now at a point where all the progress made, and relationships established with our community, is in jeopardy. Making decisions to eradicate our visibility in hockey — by eliminating symbols like jerseys and now Pride Tape — immediately stunts the impact of bringing in more diverse fans and players into the sport.”

Commissioner Gary Bettman said in an interview with Sportsnet following a Board of Governors meeting in New York in June that themed jerseys would no longer be worn on the ice.

Rangers pride uniform

Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers sports a special jersey during warmups for Pride Night prior to a game against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden May 3, 2021, in New York City. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

“That’s just become more of a distraction from really the essence of what the purpose of these nights are,” Bettman said. “We’re keeping the focus on the game. And on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause.”

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, who is Russian Orthodox, was the first to opt out of participating in Pride night in January, citing his religion. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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