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NHL issues updated theme night guidance, which includes a ban on players using Pride tape on the ice

Rainbow tape is seen on Vancouver Canucks' Aidan McDonough's stick as players also wear pride-themed warmup jerseys during the pre-game skate before an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Vancouver, on Friday, March 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Rainbow tape is seen on Vancouver Canucks' Aidan McDonough's stick as players also wear pride-themed warmup jerseys during the pre-game skate before an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Vancouver, on Friday, March 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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The NHL sent a memo to teams last week clarifying what players can and cannot do as part of theme celebrations this season, including a ban on the use of rainbow-colored stick tape for the Pride nights that have become a hot-button issue in hockey.

The updated guidance reaffirms on-ice player uniforms and gear for warmups and official team practices cannot be altered to reflect theme nights, including Pride, Hockey Fights Cancer or military appreciation celebrations. Players can voluntarily participate in themed celebrations off the ice.

Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, a few hours before the season opened with a trio of games, that the league sent the updated memo, which was first reported by ESPN.

The NHL decided in June not to allow teams to wear any theme jerseys for warmups after a handful of players opted out of those situations during Pride night last season. The league has said players opting out of Pride nights served as a distraction to the work its teams were doing in the community.

"You know what our goals, our values and our intentions are across the league, whether it's at the league level or at the club level," Commissioner Gary Bettman said in February during All-Star Weekend festivities. "But we also have to respect some individual choice, and some people are more comfortable embracing themselves in causes than others. And part of being diverse and welcoming is understanding those differences."

Philadelphia's Ivan Provorov was the first player to decide not to take part in warmups when the Flyers wore rainbow-colored jerseys before their Pride night game in January, citing his Russian Orthodox religion. Six other players followed for a variety of reasons -- fellow Russians Ilya Lyubushkin, Denis Gurianov and Andrei Kuzmenko and Canadians James Reimer and Eric and Marc Staal -- and individual teams including the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks decided not to have any players wear Pride jerseys in warmup.

A message sent to the makers of Pride Tape seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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