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The NHL announced Tuesday that it has rescinded the ban on symbolic stick tape that demonstrates support for special causes.
“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 league said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the NHL sent two memos to teams to explain what is and isn’t acceptable for nights that celebrate special initiatives, including Hockey Fights Cancer Night, Pride Night and Military Appreciation Night, according to ESPN’s Ryan S. Clark.
The league sent out a second memo after teams requested clarification on some aspects of the new rules. It explained the restrictions on “on-ice activity” during games, warmups and official practices. One of those restrictions stated that players were not allowed to use any themed tape on sticks, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
In addition to tape, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced in June during an interview with Sportsnet that teams would no longer wear specialty jerseys during warmups because it became “a distraction.”
“I’ve suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warmups because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs in some form or another host nights in honor of various groups or causes,” Bettman said, according to Clark. “And we rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction.”
A number of players had expressed disappointment in the NHL’s initial ban on specialty stick tape, including Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who has emerged as the face of the league.
“I’ve enjoyed all the nights that we’ve celebrated here in Edmonton, whether that’s Pride night or military night or Indigenous night, all the various nights that we’ve had and had a chance to celebrate. I’ve always enjoyed them,” McDavid told reporters earlier this month. “I can’t speak for anyone else or the league.
“In terms of a league standpoint, is it something that I’d like to see put back into place one day? Certainly. You know, but that’s not the way it is right now.”
Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand added: “It’s just unfortunate when you try to stand up for what’s right and you get a lot of backlash one way or another. It just seems like right now, you can’t win.”
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott recently became the first player to defy the NHL’s ban on tape for social causes when he used Pride Tape on his stick in a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday to support the LGBTQIA+ community.
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Travis Dermott became the first player to use Pride Tape on his stick in a game since the NHL banned special warmup jerseys and other on-ice gear around theme nights.
“None of the players really saw me put it on my stick,” Dermott said of his decision to use Pride Tape while speaking with The Athletic’s Chris Johnston. “It was kind of just an, ‘All right, I’m doing this, and we’re going to deal with the consequences and move forward, and hopefully I’ll have a positive impact on some people that needed that positive impact.'”
“The war’s not over. Definitely not, by any means. You don’t want to fully back off and zip your mouth up when something like this happens, but you’ve got to find the right game plan to attack it with. Where you’re supporting your organization and not making them look bad, and you don’t want to step on the league’s toes and really start a fight with them, but still tell them that I think this stuff’s important.”
The NHL did not fine Dermott or hand out any sort of punishment to the defenseman for defying its initial ban on stick tape for supporting social causes.
Now that the ban has been lifted, more players will likely show their support for social causes during upcoming games.