The Philadelphia Flyers held their annual Pride Night on Tuesday to celebrate and support the LGTBQ+ community.
As part of the festivities, the Flyers wore Pride-themed warmup jerseys and rainbow tape sticks that will be auctioned with proceeds going to Flyers charities aimed at growing hockey in underrepresented communities.
One player was notably absent as the Flyers took to the ice for the warmup: defenseman Ivan Provorov, who eventually made his way to the bench and finally played a game-high at 10:45 p.m. in Philadelphia’s 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
Reports circulated after the game that Provorov refused to wear the Pride Night jersey during warmups, prompting the Flyers to issue the following statement:
“The Philadelphia Flyers organization is committed to inclusion and is proud to support the LGBTQ+ community. Many of our players are active in supporting local LGBTQ+ organizations, and we were proud to host our annual Pride Night again this year. The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusion and the LGBTQ+ community.”
Flyers head coach John Tortorella confirmed the post-game reports, explaining that the defenseman made the decision because of his religion.
“He is true to himself and his religion. This has to do with his beliefs and his religion,” Tortorella said. “It’s one thing I respect [Provorov]he’s always true to himself.” Tortorella said he didn’t think about benching Provorov for his decision.
Provorov, who is a Russian Orthodox, met with the media shortly afterwards and spoke about his decision.
“I respect everyone and I respect everyone’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion,” he said.
The controversy cast a shadow over what was otherwise a positive evening for both the Flyers and the LGBTQ+ community.
Prior to the game, the Flyers held a skate for local LGBTQ+ youth and officers of the Greater Philadelphia GOAL organization, whose mission is to “advocate for and on behalf of LGBTQ+ first responders and military members, help train first responders in LGBTQ+ competence , and provide community outreach to foster relations between the LGBTQ+ public and first responders.”
After the game, forwards James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton held a meet and greet with Tuesday’s guest of honor, 13-year-old non-binary hockey player Trin Stephens, and his family. Laughton and van Riesmdyk first met Stephens in November through an LGBTQ+ nonprofit they work with.
“It’s super amazing because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do this as an LGBTQ young person,” Stephens told NHL.com. “I would really like people to get involved in sports and be themselves and not have to hide it from the world.”
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