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Oilers’ Connor McDavid calls NHL’s move away from Pride-themed warmup jerseys ‘disappointing’

The NHL’s decision to halt themed warmup jerseys is not sitting right with Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid

Following a season when a handful of players refused to wear Pride-themed jerseys, the NHL will move away from themed warmup jerseys next year. 

Connor McDavid with the Hart Trophy

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers poses with the Hart Trophy during the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, June 26, 2023. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“I certainly can’t speak for every organization. I know in Edmonton, we were one of the first teams to use the Pride tape,” McDavid said Monday at the NHL’s award ceremony. “I know in Edmonton, in our dressing room, we strongly feel that hockey is for everybody. That includes the Pride nights and stuff like that. 

NHL PLAYERS WILL NOT WEAR PRIDE JERSEYS DURING WARM-UPS ANYMORE: ‘KEEPING THE FOCUS ON THE GAME’

“Of course, it’s disappointing to see. With that being said, it’s certainly way, way above my decision. It’s not my call, but obviously, it’s disappointing to see.”

While teams will still hold Pride nights and other themed events, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the themed jerseys will no longer be worn on the ice.

“I suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warm-ups 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, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman told SportsNet at the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Thursday.

Vancouver Canucks Pride Night jerseys hang in the locker room

Vancouver Canucks Pride Night jerseys hang in their dressing room before their NHL game against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 31, 2023. (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bettman said the themed jerseys will continue to be sold while players will be allowed to “model” the jerseys.

Tampa Bay Lighting captain Steven Stamkos also spoke on the NHL’s decision, saying most players participated in the wearing of the warmup jerseys. 

“It was 98 percent or 99 percent of other players that wore the jersey and enjoyed wearing it and were proud wearing it — whatever jersey it was — whether it was the Pride, the military night, the cancer nights,” Stamkos said, per the Canadian Press. “The story shouldn’t be about the guy that didn’t wear it — the one guy or the two guys.

Steven Stamkos at the NHL Awards

Steven Stamkos, of the Tampa Bay Lightning, speaks onstage after being awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award at the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, June 26, 2023.  (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

“I understand that’s what gets the clicks and that’s what gets the views, but the word ‘distraction’ gets thrown around. I don’t think it had to have been a distraction. It could have been a non-issue while focusing on the good that was coming out of those nights.”

On Tuesday, the NHL announced the launch of the Player Inclusion Coalition which will aim to diversify the sport.

The program includes 20 members with “a range of perspectives across players of color, LGBTQ+ Players, and allies” who will “work to advance equality and inclusion in the sport of hockey on and off the ice,” the league said.

Connor McDavid speaks to the media

Connor McDavid, of the Edmonton Oilers, speaks with the media at the 2023 NHL Awards player availability at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, June 25, 2023. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“Every member of the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition shares a passion to bring diversity and inclusion to the forefront of the hockey community. It has been incredible to work together to amplify the role of Players as advisors, ambassadors, and catalysts for real change, which benefits underrepresented groups in the game,” said co-chair Anson Carter, who played in 674 NHL games. “As we enter the coalition’s next phase, we are excited to grow our impact by sharing more of our work with fans to invite everyone who loves hockey to join the movement with us.”

Fox News’ Ryan Morik contributed to this report.

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