Former NHL executive Brian Burke has sharply criticized the league’s decision to ban players from using rainbow-colored tape this season in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Burke, who has been the NHL’s executive vice president and director of hockey operations for six years, said in a statement posted on social media Wednesday that the league-wide ban on rainbow tape removes meaningful support from protecting a minority who don’t want to answer questions about their choice.
“This is not inclusive or progressive,” said Burke, now president of the PWHL Players Association. “Fans want teams and the league to show they are welcome, and this directive closes a door that has been open for the past decade. There is no doubt that this is a surprising and serious setback.”
The NHL sent a memo to teams last week clarifying what players can and cannot do during season-themed celebrations, including a ban on rainbow tape on Pride Night, which has become a hot-button issue in hockey circles.
The updated guidance reiterates that uniforms and equipment for on-ice players during games, warm-ups and official team drills cannot be changed to reflect theme nights, including Pride, Hockey vs. Cancer or military appreciation celebrations. Players can volunteer to participate in themed festivities off the ice.
Pride Tape co-founder Kristopher Wells told SportsNet that he has received calls from “some NHL players” about the league’s decision.
“If you see NHL players using pride tape, I wouldn’t be surprised no matter what the NHL says,” Wells told SportsNet. “I think players will find a way to express their point of view.
“People from across the hockey community have reached out to us to express their disappointment with this decision. However, they have not hesitated and will continue to find ways to show their support.”
Burke, a long-time advocate for the LGBTQ+ community who has worked in the front offices of five teams for more than two decades, said he was “deeply disappointed by the NHL’s decision to ban on-ice support for community causes.”
“I have worked in various NHL markets over the past 35 years and have always made it a priority for my team to devote significant time, energy and resources to engaging and supporting local organizations and causes,” Burke said.
You Can Play (YCP), an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ participation in sports and has been working with the NHL for the past decade, also slammed the league, saying: “If hockey is for everyone, then that’s not the way forward. direction. “
“It is now clear that the NHL is abandoning its long-standing commitment to inclusion and continuing to unpack all of the work it once did to lead the industry in 2SLGBTQ+ belonging,” the YCP Project said in a statement. “We are now All the progress made and relationships built with the community are at risk.
“Making the decision to eliminate our visibility in hockey — by eliminating symbols like jerseys and now pride tape — immediately hinders the impact of bringing more diverse fans and players to the sport.”
An NHL spokesman told ‘s Greg Wyshynski earlier this week that pride tape has been allowed for years as an exception to tape restrictions that otherwise would have allowed players to use black or white tape. The league says the current ban on pride tape is to prevent teams and players from using it as a “final resort” for violating new uniform policies.
Stickers and ribbons are also prohibited on player uniforms, but coaches can wear ribbons.
The NHL decided in June not to allow teams to wear any themed jerseys during warmups after a handful of players opted not to wear any themed jerseys during last season’s Pride Night. The league said players opting out of Pride Night would distract from the work the team does in the community.
This report used information from The Associated Press.