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Bedard, other Blackhawks use rainbow Pride Tape on Pride Night

Some Blackhawks players made the most out of Tuesday's Pride Night at the United Center, despite the league's controversial decision to ban themed warmup jerseys

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In the 2023 offseason, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league's Board of Governors agreed that theme-night jerseys would be banned indefinitely for all 32 teams.

The decision was made after seven individual players last season refused to wear Pride-themed gear such as rainbow jerseys on their teams' respective Pride Night celebrations. Several teams last season, including the Chicago Blackhawks, scrapped the Pride Night warmup sweater altogether in what may have been an effort to shield individual players from public scrutiny. A few players cited religion as their reason for declining to wear the jerseys, while others cited Russian anti-gay laws as the reason for the decision.

Despite last year's controversy, the Blackhawks hosted their Pride Night at the United Center on Tuesday, and several Blackhawks players showed their support for LGBTQ+ community by taping their sticks with rainbow-colored pride tape during warmups. Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard was one of those players.

Before the game, veterans Seth Jones and Nick Foligno spoke about the opportunity for players to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and how the warmup jerseys were just a small part of what Pride Night is about.

"We're obviously all in on that as a team and as an organization," Jones said. "We respect any way of life anyone has, and Pride Night's obviously still ma big part of this league, and a big part of our organization from the top down.

"All the players are are still happy that the organization is at least having a Pride Night. We're not wearing the jerseys, but I think it means more than that. I think if everyone believes in it, it's not just about the jersey at the end of the day."

In an interview with Sportsnet, Bettman suggested the purpose of supporting LGBTQ+ causes through themed Pride Nights had been overshadowed by discourse over players who refused to participate. Foligno echoed a similar sentiment.

"I think it's wonderful," Foligno said. "I think it's great that our league still does that. The biggest thing is everyone has different beliefs, but at the end of the day, you should be able to voice what yours is in a respectful way. It's an opportunity for us to shed light on a group of people that has felt they need more of that. So it's a great opportunity for us to do that if you feel the need to do so.

"It's a nice way to take on leadership yourself, whatever you feel your beliefs are. I think that's a great way to grow as a person. So if that's an important part for you, then stand up and do it and and I think everyone's there to support each other."

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