Arizona Coyotes defenseman Matt Dumba ripped into the NHL after the league rescinded its decision to prohibit Pride tape, questioning why the ban was in place to begin with.
“Why is that even a thing?” he told The Athletic’s Eric Stephens. “Why did they have to do that in the first place? You’ll never get the answers from them. You’ll never get the answers for that. That’s just something I’ve come to understand. They don’t have answers for a lot of things that they do. They follow and try to save face.”
“The league’s going to do whatever it wants to do and they don’t really think about the meaning behind things,” he added. “I think they try to lay it out in whatever format it works out best for the league.”
A co-founder of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, Dumba has previously called out the NHL for its lack of action when it comes to social causes. In August 2020, the rearguard said the league is “always last to the party on these topics” when criticizing its response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin.
The league sent a memo to all 32 squads earlier in October prohibiting the use of Pride tape on sticks for the season. That decision came after a select few players opted out of wearing Pride jerseys and decals last campaign.
Dumba’s teammate, Travis Dermott, became the first known player to defy the Pride tape ban on Saturday, and the league reversed course just three days later.
“After consultation with the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season,” the league announced in a brief statement Tuesday.
Dermott called the NHL’s reversal “amazing.”
“It’s just given the players their voice back,” he said, per Stephens. “If everyone wants to wear it, if one guy wants to wear it – no one is going to be forced to wear it – but now just having that voice, I think, really speaks volumes into what the league thinks of us, what the league thinks of the community, and really backs up their line that hockey is for everyone.”
Several players voiced their displeasure with the Pride tape ban when it was still in place.
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar said he could understand the NHL’s position, but added that it put players in a tough spot. Toronto Maple Leafs blue-liner Morgan Rielly said he wished players had the right to be more involved, while Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton said he would “probably” still use the tape despite the ban.
Though Pride tape is back on the table, players are still not allowed to wear specialty jerseys during warmups on theme nights, including Pride night, Hockey Fights Cancer, and military appreciation celebrations.