Ice hockey players take powerful stance against league's ban on Pride tape

NHL players opposed the league’s ban against using Pride tape on hockey sticks, a decision that had players feeling angry and confused.

Hand of ice hockey player holding hockey stick wrapped in Pride tape
Image: X @Alphafox78

On Tuesday, October 10, the National Hockey League (NHL) sent a memo to all teams noting that hockey players in the United States and Canada are not permitted to decorate their hockey sticks with rainbow Pride tape during games and not even at practice, a decision that had many players feeling angry and confused.

For the past seven years, the practice of putting Pride tape on hockey sticks has become common within the NHL leagues. In 2016, the Edmonton Oilers team based in Edmonton, Canada, started using rainbow-coloured tape on their hockey sticks in place of the standard black or white tape that is typically used.

The team did this to send a message of allyship and solidarity to young LGBTQ+ athletes who faced homophobia and discrimination within the sport.

Pride Tape is an official product that has partnered with the NHL to promote inclusion with the “NHL’s HOCKEY IS FOR EVERYONE” slogan. Prior to this latest development, the NHL even sold the tape on its official league shop.


Last year, hockey players were encouraged to wear rainbow-themed Pride warmup jerseys, but some players across the league refused. Prior to the start of the 2023-2024 NHL season, the league determined that teams would no longer be allowed to wear speciality jerseys for Pride, cancer awareness, or military appreciation. Tuesday’s memo extended this policy to include Pride Tape, claiming it creates a “distracting nature” on the ice.

Former NHL executive Brian Burke, who is the father of a gay athlete, criticised the ban, saying: “Fans look to teams and the league to show they are welcome, and this directive closes a door that’s been open for the last decade. Make no mistake, this is a surprising and serious setback.”

He added, “I hope the NHL reconsiders in order to remain a leader in DEI.”


Hockey players and fans across the world have called the ban ridiculous and misguided. One of the league’s best-known athletes, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers spoke out against the proposed ban this summer, saying: “I know in Edmonton, we were one of the first teams to use the Pride tape. We strongly feel hockey is for everybody, and that includes the Pride nights.”

Scott Laughton of the Philadelphia Flyers criticised the policy on Wednesday, indicating that he still plans to use the rainbow Pride tape this season.

“You’ll probably see me with the pride tape on that night,” he said. “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,” he stated.

In response, Pride Tape has promised to send Scott’s team all of the Pride Tape they want, saying: “True allies don’t back down, they double down with their support.”


Pride Tape also issued an official statement on their social media, saying that they were “extremely disappointed with the NHL’s decision.

“Seven years ago, Pride Tape was born out of adversity as a grassroots hockey initiative that remains resilient, and optimistic about our plans with hockey clubs, organizations and their partners at every level,” the statement read.

It added, “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.”

By contrast, the American National Football League (NFL) recently partnered with GLAAD for a special event supporting the LGBTQ+ community and donated $100,000 to the Trevor Project to match a donation by Carl Nassib, the league’s first openly gay player.


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