Longtime NHL social activity partner, Want to Play is working with Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov after he “negatively affected” Pride Night by interrupting warm-ups.
Provorov didn’t take the pre-skating on Tuesday night because he refused to wear an LGBTQ+ Pride Night team jersey to warm up or use a cane with a rainbow ribbon, citing his religious beliefs. He told reporters after the Flyers’ 5-2 home victory over the Anaheim Ducks that his choice was to “stay true to myself and my religion,” which he described as Russian Orthodox.
“I respect everyone. I respect everyone’s choices,” he said.
You Can Play COO Kurt Weaver said his organization has reached out to Flyers and Provorov to provide “additional information and a better understanding of the situation” in the aftermath.
“We do this with a lot of our partners where, after an incident like this, we’ll come in and run tutoring sessions for the whole team, for coaches, for individual players on an individual basis,” Weaver said, adding that the Flyers have used the organization’s tutoring software in the past. “A lot of times it’s just that they haven’t gotten close to someone in their life outside of the home. Just to meet someone who is another human goes a long way.”
You Can Play has partnered with the NHL since 2013 and has been the driving force behind the league’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” campaign. Weaver said his team had contacted the NHL prior to the league’s statement about Provorov’s position but had no role in drafting that letter.
The NHL, in response to ESPN’s request for comment, said Wednesday in a statement that players are “free to decide which initiatives to support.”
“Hockey for All is the inclusive initiative whereby the League encourages clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their markets, and work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the league said in its statement to ESPN. “Clubs decide who to celebrate, when and how – with the advice and support of the League. Players are free to decide what initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”
Weaver expressed disappointment with the way Flyers and head coach John Tortorella handled the situation on Tuesday night. The coach said he had never considered scratching Provorov for not taking part in warm-ups and said he respected the defender because he was “true to himself and his debt” in not participating.
“The concept of ‘team’ can mean a lot of things. I think more coaches should be asking what that cohesiveness of a team means to them. At what point does a decision like that that a player want to move to basically not show up for your work?” Weaver said. “I suspect [Tortorella] Do what the coach needs to do, which is support the player’s decision. But I hope there will be, behind the scenes, more direct conversations about what it means to be a teammate.”
In particular, You Can Play was disappointed that Provorov chose not to participate in what was primarily a charity fundraiser. Pride Knight jerseys and sticks were auctioned to support Flyers Charities, with proceeds going toward their efforts to grow the game in underserved communities. Several shirts have already been offered for more than $500, with the top being over $1,200.
“Players who do this kind of thing have a very short perspective on what it means. To me, religion is about charity and inclusion,” Weaver said. “It wasn’t just a player and a jersey on a patch of ice. What else was affected by it? Vision and proximity are what generates understanding and inclusion, and those things have been negatively affected by this. It’s disappointing to see this is a consequence of this.”
The Flyers have been one of the LGBTQ+ community’s most ardent supporters. They held their annual Pride Nights. players like James Van Riemsdyk And Scott Lawton They donate tickets to this community for every home game. The team’s mascot, Gritty, also participated in the Philadelphia Pride parade.
“If you embrace the LGBTQ+ community, they will embrace you back. A whole new group of fans came on board that day,” said Weaver. “Now, when you see an incident like this, how many fans were lost last night, despite all the good work the Flyers did.”
However, Weaver and You Can Play believe it is important to focus on the strides the NHL and hockey have made in diversity and inclusion.
“We’re going to have individuals who don’t want to be on the team. It’s unfortunate. But I say, 13 years ago, we might have had three people wear Pride jerseys. Now we have one who doesn’t. We have to acknowledge the progress,” he said.