The NHL has tried to establish itself as the North American professional sports league that welcomes all participants, including those that identify as LGBTQ+. However, a number of player have opted not to wear Pride jerseys for a variety of reasons. The latest is winger Andrei Kuzmenko of the Vancouver Canucks, who will not wear the jersey when the Canucks host the Calgary Flames Friday.
Kuzmenko and several other Russian players have decided not to wear the Pride jersey because of the political ramifications that wearing the jersey could impact on family members living in Russia. Other players have decided not to wear the jersey, citing freedom of choice and religious beliefs.
Kuzmenko did not publicly cite his reason for eschewing the Pride jersey, but Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet said the decision came after Kuzmenko talked about it with his family and informed the the team of his decision.
“I’m not going to get into it because we don’t know the deals that happen over there,” Tocchet said. “So I respect his decision.”
While Andrei Kuzmenko has become a very important player on the Canucks as a result of his 37 goals, other players have chosen to wear the Pride jersey and defenseman Quinn Hughes spoke about the decision.
“I think everyone in this room is looking forward to it,” defenseman Quinn Hughes said. “And I know in our organization, everyone’s welcome. Every time we’ve done Pride night, I’ve worn the jersey and celebrated the night.”
Star Vancouver center Elias Petterson joined Hughes in his support of Pride by the organization.
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