The NHL’s recently announced ban on rainbow-patterned Pride Tape — in games, in pregame activities, and even, bizarrely, in practices — appears to be blowing up in Gary Bettman’s face.
AllPhly.com reported yesterday that Flyers center Scott Laughton is planning to defy the ban when the team holds its Pride Night promotion on Jan. 10. Here’s the quote from Laughton, who’s a longtime supporter of LGBTQ+ causes:
“You’ll probably see me with the Pride Tape on that night. I don’t know, I didn’t read really what it said, if it’s a ban or something, but I’ll probably have it on. We’ll see what they say, but it’s not gonna affect the way I go about it. If they want to say something, they can. […] I’ll use the tape – if I have to buy it myself, I will. Go about it that way.”
Laughton apparently isn’t alone. A report from The Athletic quotes Pride Tape co-founder Jeff McLean saying that the NHL ban has actually increased demand for his product:
Several NHL teams have contacted McLean directly to see how they can respond to the league’s decision to prohibit players from using Pride-themed tape this season. According to McLean, one NHL team even phoned his office on Tuesday to place an order for an entire case of Pride Tape.
“We are talking with teams this week about what we can do. We want to talk about what more we can do on Pride Night. And I’m really optimistic about that,” McLean said Tuesday. “And if we have this conversation a week from now, there will be more teams on board.”
Behind the scenes, Pride Tape employees say there has been a groundswell of support through back channels. The pushback to the NHL’s new directive — which states that NHL players won’t be allowed to put Pride-themed tape on their sticks on the ice this season — has also been coming directly from the players themselves. Pride Tape’s other co-founder, Dr. Kristopher Wells, believes there might even be enough traction to force the NHL to reverse its policy.
That article also quotes Wild defenseman Jon Merrill saying he’d “be open” to using the Pride Tape:
“If anyone does it, what is the league going to do?” Merrill said. “Take me off the ice, give me a penalty? Then you look bad as a league. I don’t know. It’s upsetting. Just disappointing.”
Meanwhile, former NHL exec Brian Burke says the Pride Tape ban is a “serious setback” for the league. Considering how this controversy is overshadowing the start of the regular season, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.