The NHL Stood for What’s Right in the End

Olivier Pilon
3 min readNov 12, 2023

Use of Pride Tape by hockey players

The National Hockey League reversed its ban on the use of Pride Tape by athletes on October 24. Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

The NHL came to its senses a few days ago, and reversed its decision to ban the use of Pride Tape for athletes who want to show their support for members of the LGBT community.

Right before the regular 2023–2024 season started, the league said, without any warning, that players weren’t allowed to put rainbow tape on their sticks any longer.

That came as a shocker for people like me who thought the league was moving in the right direction in the last year — celebrating diversity in all its forms by holding pride events.

To justify its decision, the NHL said at the time that it was creating a ‘’distraction’’ from the game. In short, they decided to take the side of the minority of players who refused to wear the tape for personal reasons, mostly religious. The commissioner and others also hide behind the fact that the guideline also applied to other theme celebrations like Hockey Fights Cancer or military appreciation night.

When the initial decision was taken, many people were angry. It was the case of former Maple Leafs general manager, Brian Burke, who said he was ‘’deeply disappointed’’ and that it was a serious ‘’setback’’ from past progress.

As a reminder, Burke is an inspiring ally of the community who has been vocal on gay rights issues, especially since his gay son died in a car accident in the 2000s.

MAGA supporters and republicans in general were probably delighted by the ban, since they didn’t want to see progress in our society.

But overall there was a lot of backlash following the NHL’s initial decision.

People couldn’t believe we were going back in time with such a devastating regulation. Just think about it, hockey isn’t recognized as the most accepting and diverse sport out there. (There’s a reason why there has never been an active player who has come out as gay.)

More needs to be done to make the sport more welcoming to sexual and visible minorities.

Until there are improvements, some talented athletes that are part of the community won’t chase their dreams. They will weigh the pros and the cons and decide that it isn’t worth it to play professionally.

If we go back to what prompted the NHL to reverse its terrible ban, we can thank some fans and businesses. But part of it is because of Travis Dermott’s courage. The Coyotes defensive surely had a role to play in the backtrack.

Travis Dermott, a Coyotes hockey player, proudly and quietly wore Pride Tape on his stick on October 21, defying the NHL rule. Photo via X/@trentl14

Unlike anyone, the player decided to defy the ban and put some rainbow tape on his stick during the first game of the season. It was a brave move that could’ve gone the other way around.

He stood up alone for what was right on that night, and for that we owe him respect.

As I said in the title, in the end the NHL took the right decision. Love won over fear and hate. Even though we aren’t all part of the LGBT community, we can all be grateful that society is evolving for the best, and that we are creating a more accepting world one step at a time.

Now, players who want will “have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season”. The NHL said it took the decision after consulting the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition.

The reaction from the company Pride Tape on X after the NHL allowed players to use the tape once more. X

As we heard previously, love always wins despite the setbacks that we are faced with. Cheers to progress and acceptance.

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Olivier Pilon

Graduated with a masters degree in politics from the University of Quebec in Montreal. Human rights, LGBT issues, sports and music. Twitter: @OlivierPilon