Pride Nights have been a major topic of conversation across the NHL over the past few months.
They haven’t, however, been a topic of conversation inside the Vancouver Canucks’ dressing room.
In fact, Quinn Hughes seemed entirely unaware that the Canucks’ Pride Night game was coming up on Friday, March 31.
“I think that the organization is releasing when we’re doing our Pride Night soon, I wasn’t sure that they already did that,” said Hughes, later adding, “Obviously, you guys know that it’s Friday, apparently.”
The team’s Pride Night celebrations will indeed be taking place on Friday, even if Hughes was unaware. The Canucks announced their plans on social media Wednesday afternoon.
"The opportunity to celebrate the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is very important to our entire organization," said the Canucks president of business operations, Michael Doyle, in a press release. "Pride night, and all the incredible activities that highlight this evening, is special for a number of reasons. Besides raising awareness and understanding, it also lets our fan base know that everyone is welcome here at Rogers Arena. Our club believes strongly in diversity and inclusion, and we look forward to celebrating these core values with our community."
The Canucks confirmed that the team will wear Pride Night jerseys designed by a local artist and also said, "a $20,000 donation on behalf of the Canucks for Kids Fund will be made to QMUNITY, a non-profit organization in Vancouver that supports and assists 2SLGBTQIA+ people and their allies."
The Pride Night will also feature a "Pride Party on the Plaza" ahead of the game with a beer garden, live music, and a drag show featuring Vancouver's own Mx.Bukuru, Carrie Oki Doki, Xanax, and Jerrilynn Spears.
"I know in our organization, everyone's welcome"
It’s perhaps not surprising that Hughes wouldn’t know that Pride Night was coming up: the players in the room are focused on preparing for their opponent in that game, the Calgary Flames, and not their apparel for the pre-game warm-up. Most players don’t know a special event night is happening until game day and they see the warm-up jersey in their stall. That’s not to say that it isn’t important to them — it’s just often not on their radar as they focus on the day-to-day of playing in the NHL.
Even if he didn’t know exactly when Pride Night was coming, Hughes is still excited to take part.
“I think that everyone in the room is looking forward to it,” said Hughes. “I know in our organization, everyone's welcome, and every time we've done the Pride Night, I’ve worn the jersey and celebrated the night.”
According to Hughes and a brief survey of the room, the team hasn’t had any discussions regarding whether any players will refuse to wear the Pride Night jersey. So far this season, Ivan Provorov, James Reimer, Marc Staal, and Eric Staal have opted out of wearing their teams’ Pride Night jerseys citing religious reasons, while Ilya Lyubushkin cited Russia’s anti-LGBTQIA+ law and fear of retribution in his home country.
The Russian law against supposed LGBTQIA+ propaganda is not a felony offence and only carries a fine for individuals who “spread propaganda” in the media, which would not necessarily cover wearing a Pride Night jersey for a pre-game warm-up. Multiple Russian players have worn Pride Night jerseys this season since the Russian law was amended and none have been fined thus far.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic’s Scott Powers via email, “we have no information that would suggest there is any material threat that would exist (in Russia or otherwise) related to a Russian player participating in a club’s Pride activities.”
"We’ve worn [a Pride jersey] every year, at least since I’ve been here."
While the Canucks have several Russian players on their roster, the topic evidently has not come up.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Hughes. “We’ve worn it every year, at least since I’ve been here — even the year as the Canadian Division when we had no fans here… I think it’s a great night, I’m glad we’re doing it, and I don’t think there was ever any discussion about doing it or not doing it.”
As reporters were waiting to enter the Canucks’ dressing room after practice on Wednesday, the usual room where the media speak with the coach was unavailable, with a locked door keeping everyone out. Evidently, the Canucks’ content team was doing a photoshoot that no one was allowed to see.
A well-timed side door opening allowed your man on the inside to catch a glimpse of the team's Pride Night logo and it is appropriately bold and colourful.
If any fans were concerned that the Canucks would follow in the footsteps of the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks by canceling their Pride Night warm-ups, let those fears be assuaged.