At least one Canucks player won’t be wearing a themed warm-up jersey when Vancouver holds its annual Pride night on Friday.
Coach Rick Tocchet said that after speaking with his family, Russian winger Andrei Kuzmenko opted not to don the special kit before the home game against the Calgary Flames.
Vancouver Canuck defenseman Quinn Hughes on wearing Pride Night jerseys
“I’m not going to get into that because we don’t know the deals going on there. So I respect his decision,” Tocchet said.
Kuzmenko, 27, has become a fan favorite in his first NHL season due to his wide smile and outgoing personality.
He has 37 goals and 31 assists in 73 games, leading the Canucks in goals.
Some of his teammates have publicly committed to wearing the jerseys, designed by local artist Christin Hryc. The main crest features a rainbow and flower on the Canucks orca logo and rainbow shoulder patches.
“I think everyone in this room is looking forward to it,” defenseman Quinn Hughes said Wednesday. “And I know that in our organization, everyone is welcome.
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“Every time we did Pride night, I put on my T-shirt and celebrated the night.”
Star center Elias Pettersson said Friday that he, too, supports the annual event.
“I think it’s important to show that everyone is welcome here,” he said. “And I’ll wear the shirt tonight.”
Vancouver has a number of other initiatives planned for Friday, including a pregame drag show outside Rogers Arena and in-game performances. A $20,000 donation is also being made to QMUNITY, a Vancouver nonprofit that supports LGBTQ people and their allies.
Kuzmenko joins a handful of NHL players who have refused to wear Pride jerseys this season, including Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer, Los Angeles Lakers’ Eric and Marc Staal. Florida Panthers, and Buffalo Sabers blue lineman Ilya Lyubushkin.
Whether a player wears the themed jersey comes down to individual rights, new NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh said Thursday in Toronto.
“The LGBTQ community should not feel like NHL hockey players are turning their backs on that community. Most of the players have worn the jersey,” said Walsh, who has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights during his political career.
He added that the league will likely have more discussions on the matter in the future.
“But I think it’s really important that as a league and as a locker room we be inclusive and support the right of all people to support the game,” Walsh said.
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