The New York Rangers did not wear Pride Night jerseys or use rainbow stick tape during warmups on Friday night, despite promoting them in ticket sales materials leading up to the game.
The Rangers promoted Pride Night to fans by saying players “will be showing their support by donning pride-themed warm-up jerseys and tape in solidarity with those who continue to advocate for inclusivity.” Instead, the team wore their “Liberty Head” jerseys in warmups.
In previous seasons, Rangers players had Pride-themed jerseys and sticks that were auctioned off after the game for charity.
The Rangers’ Pride Night was held 10 days after Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov declined to take the pregame skate with his teammates because wearing the Flyers’ LGBTQ+ Pride Night warmup jersey conflicted with his Russian Orthodox beliefs. Coach John Tortorella said he respected the decision, saying Provorov was “being true to himself and to his religion.”
After the game, a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Rangers released a statement: “Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In keeping with our organization’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”
The Rangers’ 7th annual Pride Night was celebrated throughout the game in other ways. Fans were given a pride-themed fanny pack as a giveaway. The exterior and interior lights at Madison Square Garden were illuminated in rainbow colors. The Rangers also made a charitable donation to the Ali Forney Center on Pride Night, the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ+ homeless youths in the country.
Andre Thomas, co-chair of NYC Pride and Heritage of Pride, participated in the ceremonial puck drop. When reached for comment, NYC Pride said they were unaware that the Rangers had decided not to wear Pride Night jerseys and use rainbow stick tape as they had done in the past, calling it “a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond.”
Said NYC Pride: “In recent years, numerous National Hockey League (NHL) franchises including the New York Rangers have introduced a series of ‘Pride Nights’ to engage the LGBTQ+ community.
“NYC Pride has been honored to take part in these celebrations, including as recently as last night at Madison Square Garden. NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys and rainbow tape would not be worn as advertised. We understand and appreciate that this has been a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond.
“We are communicating these concerns with NY Rangers and NHL leadership as we continue to discuss the ways these organizations can work toward inclusion. NYC Pride has a duty to both support our partners and hold them accountable. We are committed to continuing our relationships with the NY Rangers and the NHL and maintaining substantive dialogue with them about meaningful allyship with the LGBTQ+ community.”
After Provorov skipped warmups in Philadelphia, the NHL put out a statement that said players can decide which team and league initiatives to support.
“Hockey is for Everyone is the umbrella initiative under which the League encourages Clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, and to work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the league said in its statement to ESPN. “Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with League counsel and support. Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”