The National Hockey League banned players from wearing themed jerseysduring warm-ups, but they didn’t say anything about wearing them before warm-ups.
That’s the loophole that the New Jersey Devils are exploiting as the organization marks its LGBTQ+ Pride night on Thursday. The team announced ahead of their game against the Edmonton Oilers that the specially-designed jerseys would be “worn during player arrivals,” in an apparent bypass of the league’s new policies.
NHL teams added LGBTQ+ Pride to their seasonal theme nights in recent years, which also include events such as Black History, military appreciation, and Hockey Fights Cancer. On these nights, players would wear jerseys corresponding with the theme while they warmed up, which would later be auctioned off with the proceeds going to related charities.
Just seven players refused to wear pride jerseys last year, citing their own personal beliefs. Some teams responded to the PR backlash by taking the choice away from players and removing Pride jerseys entirely. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league’s Board of Governors decided to nix themed jerseys entirely at the end of the 2022-2023 season, with Bettman calling them a “distraction.”
NHL players are now forbidden from wearing themed gear during warm-ups, with players who break the rules getting threatened with fines. No player so far has actually been penalized for disobeying the policy, including Travis Dermott, who donned rainbow Pride tape before the league reversed its ban on that specific item.
Proceeds for the Devils’ Pride jersey auction will go to Hyacinth, New Jersey’s largest and first HIV/AIDs service provider. The jersey was designed by local artist, Kathryn Kennedy of Kearny, New Jersey, who said that the abstract style represents “coming out” within the LGBTQ+ community.
“These theme nights let people who are a part of their respective communities know that they’re seen, heard, and welcome,” she said in a statement. “It’s a huge honor to be involved with the Devils’ Pride Night, and my hope is that I’ve created something that helps others feel accepted and appreciated.”