The NHL isn’t for you

Image for article titled The NHL isn’t for you

Once the NHL let one through the door, it stood to reason that another would follow. After the Flyers’ Ivan Provorov refused to wear their Pride Night jerseys in warmups, and their coach John Tortorella refused to admonish him in any way (nor did the official partner of the NHL in these matters, the You Can Play Project), the New York Rangers seemingly were only too happy to have that baton passed to them. On Friday night at MSG, the Rangers did not wear their Pride jerseys or use rainbow stick tape for warmups, even though that was advertised as part of the Rangers’ Pride Night festivities. Which makes for a Pride Night basically on the margins, which is the whole fucking problem in the first place. The point of these is to make it clear that LGBTQ+ fans, and by some miracle players one day, are welcome in the whole arena, both literally and figuratively.

This is what the NHL gets by sticking its head in the sand on Provorov and Tortorella. Instead of making the NHL a welcoming place for those who have not felt comfortable in the past, or right now, they have opened up more room for bigots, ignorance, and hatred. And they seem happy to do so. Did it come with yet another toothless statement from YCP? Of course it did! It’s what they specialize in:


This isn’t about accepting all views, as the league, its teams, and YCP want to claim. No one was asking Provorov or any of the Rangers to make out with a teammate at center ice during warm-ups. They were only asking them to wear a jersey that said people different from them are also welcome, which should be easy enough no matter what your beliefs are. Especially if your beliefs are supposedly deeply Christian, which — though most everyone following that religion seems to have forgotten — is actually based in acceptance and love for others even if they’re not also Christians.

Nobody’s hearing nothing

What all of these entities have lost sight of is that Pride Nights and other events like this aren’t just about reaching out to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s just as much, if not more about educating the rest of the NHL’s fans and employees that this is what we stand for now, to teach them that the LGBTQ+ community is going to be part of the NHL world going forward and that the NHL is happy to have them be so. And that not only will it not be the end of the world, it’ll actually be better. That everyone has to realize what modern times and what the world looks like now. These nights are just as much about teaching the Provorov’s and Rangers of the world that this is part of your world now. And even if it doesn’t apply to you, you’re going to make room for it.


Instead, what the NHL and its teams have said is that it’s OK for its players and execs to think and act as if they’re a group of fans, and yes, players in their dressing room — because there are gay NHLers — are less than. That the hatred and ignorance that they’ve faced that have either kept them out of the arena seats or being who they are as a player is sanctioned.

Because that’s what it is. Whatever Provorov or the Rangers or YCP want to hide behind, all of this is based on the idea that LGBTQ+ are lower, are less than. They are not worthy of my respect, they are not worthy of simply wearing a shirt for 20 minutes, because they don’t belong. They are saying that they can’t take the smallest bit of time to make it clear that they are welcome, even if it’s not who I am. Because only who I am is what’s allowed, what’s proper, what is “normal.” That’s the path the NHL is on.


If that were all for the NHL, that would be bad enough. But this all comes in the same time period that the league couldn’t find the cardboard spine to stand up to Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Standing up to DeSantis should be the biggest hanging curveball in our culture today. He’s so wrong and so ugly on so many things, it’s a gimme. The NHL was going to hold a Pathway To Hockey Summit during All-Star weekend in Sunrise, where minority candidates were going to be able to learn about and seek out jobs in the NHL. Clearly the NHL needs this, given the makeup of its current staff.

Of course, DeSantis couldn’t wait to come running and cry “woke.” The response from the league should have been obvious. And it still was obvious, it was just obvious in the way that the NHL and hockey has always been obvious. The NHL backed down and removed all language on the event about diversity and minority candidates. Maybe the biggest whiff ever.


What is the NHL afraid of? As always, it’s terrified of its crusty white fanbase, even though most of that will be dead in the next 10-15 years. The NHL is still pretty convinced that its arenas are mostly filled with old white guys who just showed up to see fights and hates anything that caters to modern society in the least. Mostly, they’re terrified that if there was any kind of similar reaction to their league that the NFL got over Colin Kaepernick, it would be fatal for them. The NFL can stomach that blow, which only lasted barely a ripple anyway, but the NHL can’t.

The thing is that hockey fans aren’t going anywhere. Too much of their identity is wrapped up in being a hockey fan. I’ve always said, for example, that if the Chicago Blackhawks changed their logo, there would be a lot of whining and yelling from a certain set of fans, and then those same fans would be the very first ones to buy the new jersey with a new logo on it. I’ve seen it. But Gary Bettman and the NHL are still too scared.


All you need to know is that while the NHL might claim this or that, they still have Paul Bissonnette on one of their national broadcasts, who works for BarfStool, a bastion of hate and ignorance. That’s where the NHL is. The NHL is where it can watch one of the major sports media companies, SB Nation, ax almost all of its hockey coverage when it decides it needs to cut marginal costs, because that’s where the NHL is.

In the spirit of how they and YCP want to act, we’ll just say that’s their choice. It’s a choice that will see them left behind of course, but it’s their league, and they can drive it into the ground if they choose. 

Pair of NHL brothers face off for first time, share penalty box minutes

Image for article titled Pair of NHL brothers face off for first time, share penalty box minutes

The Joseph family had a memorable Friday night as P.O. Joseph of the Pittsburgh Penguins and brother Mathieu Joseph, playing for the Ottawa Senators, faced off for the first time as NHL players. Mom and dad were in the stands for the game for the occasion, and as only brothers can do, got put in timeout together for roughhousing with each other.

Upon further review, it appeared that P.O. caught himself in the face with his own stick, and Mathieu should’ve skated free of a high stick penalty. While that’s how things should’ve transpired according to the rules of the game, the laws of siblings deemed otherwise.


“I don’t know if they thought this is going to be funny or something that we’re both going to get a penalty at the same time,’’ Mathieu Joseph said. “But stuff happens. I’m sure my parents had a good laugh about it, but I didn’t think it was funny.’’


It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. If I’ve learned anything from life with two siblings, it’s that intent or whose fault it is that doesn’t matter. If one sibling gets hurt while another is in close proximity, both get punished. It’s only fair, and good parents don’t give preferential treatment regardless of which child is the favorite son. (There’s always a favorite, and don’t let your parents tell you otherwise. There’s no greater lie than “We love you all equally.”)

I think my favorite part of the night, other than the parents’ incredulous reaction to their boys heading toward the box, was the pregame photo op that definitely didn’t foreshadow the events.


Pittsburgh ended up winning, 4-1, but neither brother left the ice with the high ground. Seeing as the penalty was self-inflicted, maybe next time the refs will let them out of the box once they apologize to each other. I know that’s how it worked in my house. 


The Josephs aren’t the first siblings this happened to. Keith and Wayne Primeau fought during a 1997 Buffalo Sabres-Hartford Whalers game, and Brent and Rich Sutter had roughing penalties against each other in a 1992 Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues contest.

Ivan Provorov, John Tortorella once again show that hockey can’t move forward

Image for article titled Ivan Provorov, John Tortorella once again show that hockey can’t move forward

This is becoming, sadly and infuriatingly, a familiar story in sports. The NHL wants you to believe that “hockey is for everyone,” except that it never seems to filter down to anyone in the game below the tagline.

Ivan Provorov, on Pride Night in Philadelphia, refused to wear the rainbow-themed jerseys the Flyers sported for warmups. So he wasn’t on the ice for warm-ups. But he played in the game. And his coach, John Tortorella, didn’t seem to care all that much. Which is certainly a departure from how Tortorella used to feel about players respecting beliefs (in fairness to Torts, he did walk that back years later).

Hockey is for everyone

But what Tortorella and Provorov don’t realize, or do and just don’t care about, is that they are the reason that teams have Pride nights, that there have to be these dedicated campaigns to show support for the LGBTQ+ community and to let them know they are as welcome in hockey as anyone else. Because hockey, as much if not more than any other sport, has not made any of that community feel welcome for pretty much its entire existence.


The move here, the only correct one, would have been to not let Provorov play. To tell Flyers fans, especially LGBTQ+ Flyers fans, that the organization has their back and will not accept homophobia in any form. Because that’s what it is, no matter how shrouded in his religion Provorov wants to make it and Tortorella wants to wimp out and hide behind too. Torts is a hardass until it really matters. If your religion teaches that some people are less worthy of rights, inclusion, and care because of who they are, your religion is a steaming pile of shit. Plain and simple.

What should be pointed out to both of these dumbfucks is that there’s likely an LGBTQ+ player in their dressing room, who very well might feel like he can’t live openly and comfortably as an NHL player because this kind of crap flows so freely within the league and game. Someone should ask them about that. Provorov is making a statement that he thinks that individual is beneath him, and Tortorella is essentially sanctioning it.


Gary Bettman should take action, but he won’t

The next move should be Gary Bettman stepping in and suspending both, but don’t sit on a hot stove waiting for that to happen. Much like Rob Manfred was buried somewhere in his scumbag hovel when the Tampa Bay Rays pulled this horseshit this past summer. One can’t help but feel they opened the doors for this kind of thing on these shores, when none of those players were punished for camouflaging themselves as servants of the Bible while being bigots. And also being completely oblivious to what Jesus’s message actually was. Idrissa Gueye, then of PSG and now of Everton, refused to wear the pride jersey the club was featuring once and wasn’t allowed to play.


Provorov can spew whatever drivel he can think of about respecting choices or people all he wants, but he did the exact opposite. His actions, and the Flyers’ inaction, make it clear that he agrees that the LGBTQ+ not only have no place in hockey but in the world, and simply ignores if not pisses on the struggles they’ve had to even feel comfortable being a hockey fan.

Provorov is allowed to be an idiot, but his coach and team certainly don’t have to sanction it. It’s certainly not like the Flyers have a lot to lose, given the rate their season, and direction, have furiously dug themselves into a crater. We keep ceding ground to those claiming “religion” in lieu of being honest about their hate, ignorance, and insecurity, and those of us who want everyone accepted and with the same rights and freedoms are the ones who keep losing things. This was an easy place to declare it would stop, and everyone whiffed.


Ring of Honor legend Jay Briscoe dead at 38

There was a lesson in just how frustrating these kinds of discussions are because of just how fragile life is when the news broke last night that Jay Briscoe passed at the age of 38 in a car accident.


For those who don’t know, Jay Briscoe was one-half of the defining tag team of Ring of Honor, being with the company for its entire existence and providing some of the most memorable matches, tag or otherwise, in wrestling anywhere.


It was even more jarring because Jay and his brother Mark Briscoe had just completed what is most likely the pinnacle of their career, their trilogy of matches with FTR that simply set the industry alight. Most would tell you they’re the three best tag matches anywhere ever, and had poised the Briscoes to bigger and better things.

The Briscoes certainly weren’t without controversy, which may have kept them off mainstream TV forever. Briscoe certainly made some hideous comments which he repeatedly apologized for, though the duo’s continued use of confederate flag imagery would cause anyone’s mileage to vary on how seriously they took their contrition. It certainly made them an uncomfortable watch for many fans.


Briscoe was also beloved by just about everyone they came across in the industry, which saw an outpouring of sorrow and love last night. It’s just how quickly it can go, from the top of one’s business, to gone forever.

The NBA MVP debate is a funny thing