The Buffalo Sabres hosted their Pride Night, recognizing their fans that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. However, as has become commonplace in the NHL, the Sabres didn’t get 100% participation from their players.
The Sabres announced before their game on Monday that defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin would not wear the Pride-themed warmup jerseys. He became the latest player to opt out of wearing a Pride Night jersey over the last few months.
There are two different reasons players have opted out. Most relevant to Lyubushkin regards a law passed in Russia back in December. The Kremlin passed a law making it illegal to “spread ‘propaganda’ about ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ in all media, including social, advertising and movies.”
A few teams across the league fear that their Russian players could face punishment from the Russian government if they wear a Pride warmup jersey. Lyubushkin is Russian.
However, other players have opted out simply because of religious reasons. Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers began this trend, citing his Russian Orthodox faith for his refusal.
This trend in the NHL has, understandably, drawn criticism from fans and media members alike. Many fear that Pride Nights in the NHL may be phased out given the controversy. Some teams have already decided against wearing themed warmup jerseys this season.
Lyubushkin played for the Sabres, receiving 23 minutes of ice time Monday. The Sabres fell to the Montreal Canadiens in a shootout, 4-3. Their loss helped the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs clinch playoff spots.
This is far from the first occurrence of this in the NHL this season. Only time will tell if the trend continues, or if the NHL can figure out a way to increase player participation in these Pride Nights that are so important to so many people.
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