Just a few weeks after the NHL sent a memo to teams banning the use of specialty tape during warmup and games, the league has completely reversed its course.
Arizona Coyotes defenceman Travis Dermott defied the ruling by wearing Pride tape in a game against Anaheim on Oct. 21.
While there was no known ruling on what consequences there would be if a player did use the specialty tape, Dermott still decided to take the risk.
Dermott, a former Toronto Maple Leafs player, had previously worn Pride tape on his sticks every game in support of the LGBTQ+ community, but the NHL’s initial ruling forced him to make a decision on facing punishment from the league or standing up for his beliefs.
As it turned out, there ended up being no punishment at all. Indeed, three days after the game the NHL decided to completely reverse its decision.
“After consultation with the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season,” the Oct. 24 statement read.
While the initial ruling against specialty tape was seen as a setback for LGBTQ+ activism in hockey, the rescinding of the rule is being celebrated as a win.
“We are so very grateful to everyone who believes hockey should be a safe, inclusive and welcoming space for all,” Pride Tape posted on social media on Oct. 24.
NHL fan JC Clemas said he feels the league was trying to stop the backlash they received about Pride, but went too far in doing so.
“It feels like they were trying to prevent the backlash they had faced from those opposed to the Pride movement, and ultimately cut out their entire moral code in the process,” Clemas said.
“Thankfully, Travis Dermott challenged this ruling, and the NHL realized what we all know,” he said. “It is wrong to punish someone for showing support to a marginalized community.”
However, the league has not budged on its decision to ban specialty warmup jerseys after a handful of players refused to wear Pride jerseys during the 2022-23 season.
This has forced teams to get creative with ways to support causes using specialty jerseys.
The LA Kings players wore specialty Dia de los Muertos jerseys during their walk-ins to the arena on Oct. 28, but did not wear them on the ice for warmups.
These jerseys tho 😍
— LA Kings (@LAKings) October 29, 2023
The Boston Bruins players similarly wore Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys during their entrances on Oct. 30, while the Vegas Golden Knights have advertised Nevada Day jerseys on social media.
Players and teams have already begun to take advantage of the ability to wear specialty tape again.
The Philadelphia Flyers wore blue stick tape in warmup on Nov. 1 in support of the victims of the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine.
Players such as Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly, Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton and Minnesota Wild defenceman Jon Merrill had all stated that they were considering or planning to wear Pride tape prior to the reversal of the ban.