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For quite some time, the National Hockey League managed to keep its nose clean when it came to getting involved in politics. While the NFL, NBA and MLB tried to trick progressives into watching by parroting the same tired talking points we’ve all tuned out by this point, the NHL seemed to make a concerted effort to stick to what it did best: playing hockey.
It’s a damn shame, as those days seem well in the rearview mirror.
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov made headlines and shattered woke brains by having the gall — the gall — to not wear a jersey for the team’s Pride Night.
While the NHL has undoubtedly tried to position itself among other left-leaning leagues in North America, those attempts have routinely blown up in their face.
The NHL Has Had Several Recent Woke Blunders
They were ridiculed for what seemed to be a completely performative diversity push. The league’s Twitter account ignored biology and supported an all-trans hockey tournament only to have a biological woman seriously injured after getting run over by a much larger biological man. Most recently, the league promoted a job fair open only to certain groups of people, only to backtrack it after getting slammed as “discriminatory” by Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
One of the first signs of this was the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone Initiative. That idea alone isn’t a problem in and of itself. In fact, it’s a great thing. As a hockey fan, I want as many people as possible to discover hockey and enjoy it.
Last I checked, however, Ivan Provorov qualifies under the category of “Everyone.”
This may sound like a novel idea, but inclusivity means including everyone. Not, as the left seems to think, everyone who agrees with them in lock-step, all else be damned.
Oddly enough, the Provorov incident could be a wake-up call for the league. Their statement on the matter concluded by saying they supported players in choosing what causes to support. It was a tacit admission that cramming progressive talking points down fans’ throats wasn’t working the way they had hoped.
NHL Analysts’ Unhinged Takes Highlight Hypocrisy
While the league may have learned a lesson, many writers and analysts. We’ve seen some certifiably unhinged takes on this.
Just to rehash this, this was a guy who chose — based on his religion — not to participate in something. He didn’t detract from the players who chose to show support for Pride Night. No one even knew the reason for his absence until hours later.
Still, we’ve got some Canadian news anchor pounding the table in a fit of rage over it. We’ve got ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski up in arms that Provorov would wear a jersey supporting the military but not LGBTQ+ folks. And finally, we had NHL Network analyst EJ Hradek telling Provorov to “get on a plane” and “get involved” in the war in Ukraine.
That last one sure seems — to borrow a favorite progressive buzzword — at least toeing the line of “xenophobic.”
Telling a foreign-born player to leave the continent because he didn’t want to “wear a ribbon” so to speak, is the kind of wild rhetoric that doesn’t do anything but weaken the entire woke argument.
John Tortorella Gets It
No one summed up the Provorov situation quite like Flyers coach John Tortorella. As he put it, “Just because you don’t agree with his decision doesn’t mean that he did anything wrong.”
As is sadly typical of the left, this issue has been oversimplified. It’s not as simple as wearing the jersey or you’re effectively telling the LGBTQ+ community to pound sand.
No, you’ve got a guy who put more value in his belief system than in what the mob wants him to do. He did what he felt was best for him and I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision.
It’s worth noting that the Flyers handled this situation well. Tortorella praised both the Pride Night festivities and the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community after the game, and also praised Provorov for being true to himself and his faith.
Those things are not mutually exclusive. Anyone who lives outside of the black-and-white progressive fantasyland knows that people can hold nuanced views. You can disagree with Provorov for not taking part, but at the same time respect his right to make his own decisions.
That’s a concept that is scarily inching closer to being a vestige of the past.
NHL’s Constant Symbolic Gestures Carry Too Much Weight
We’ve dug ourselves a hole when it comes to symbolic gestures like this. People should be taught that they matter and are appreciated by those around them. It’s time to stop pawning that off on corporations who change their profile pictures each June and teams who warm up with rainbow-colored jerseys or patches and then get mad when someone doesn’t comply.
More than 20 other players took to the ice, and yet the full focus of the woke mob is on the guy who didn’t.
One player choosing not to wear a jersey shouldn’t make someone feel invalidated. Because it doesn’t invalidate anyone.
If it does, there are other issues at play larger than whether Provorov wore the jersey.
I’d bet that for most fans — the overwhelming majority of folks who aren’t busy getting big-mad on Twitter at anything and everything right of center — this sort of thing detracts from the on-ice product.
There’s no conceivable argument in favor of the sport being better off when injected with politics. If anything, the league continues to alienate fans who either disagree with the messaging or are just worn out from it.
From a fan’s perspective, it’s detrimental to the enjoyment of the on-ice product, and hopefully, the NHL wakes up and realizes it’s detrimental to the league moving forward.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle