NHL Team Ditches Pride-Themed Jerseys, Fears For Russian Players’ Safety

The Chicago Blackhawks will not take the ice for Sunday’s warm-ups wearing pride-themed jerseys, team sources told The Athletic.

The decision, according to a report published Wednesday by the outlet, was made by team officials in the “front office” rather than by the players themselves — but the stated goal was to ensure the safety of several players who have deep ties to Russia.

The Blackhawks will become the third NHL team to decline to wear Pride jerseys during Pride Night, citing security concerns for their three players of Russian heritage, sources confirm to @MarkLazerus.https://t.co/ZiQRhPjTUm

— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) March 22, 2023

At issue is a new law signed in December by Russian President Vladimir Putin — which bans all “LGBTQ propaganda” and prohibits Russian citizens from promoting or sharing information about homosexuality, whether that be on television, in books, in advertising, online, or in public. It expands a previous law that banned expressing or demonstrating LGBTQ behavior in front of children.

The official punishment for those found in violation of this law is a fine, but officials within the Blackhawks organization opted to nix the Pride-themed wear just to stay on the safe side. Three of the team’s players have some ties to the embattled nation: Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev was born in Moscow, but Goalie Anton Khudobin (who is from Kazakhstan) and Swiss-born forward Philip Kurashev both have direct ties to Russia or family members still living there.

The Chicago Gay Hockey Association released a statement calling the decision “disappointing” but said that it would not deter the organization in its work to make hockey a “more inclusive” place.

A statement from the Chicago Gay Hockey Association regarding the #Blackhawks decision to not wear Pride warmup jerseys for Sunday’s game vs. Vancouver: pic.twitter.com/jrGJ2SnRXC

— Evan F. Moore (@evanFmoore) March 23, 2023

Outsports panned the decision as a copout and “another black eye for NHL PRIDE nights,” quoting several who had tweeted about the fact that the Blackhawks had displayed Ukraine’s flag during a game just one year earlier.


“So the Ukraine support was okay but the #PrideNight was a bridge too far?” one tweet said. “Yea I’m not buying this form (sic) the #Blackhawks Just scratch the Russian players if they are tanking anyways.”

Other organizations that plan to forgo the Pride-themed jerseys include the Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota Wild, and the New York Rangers.

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