Chicago Blackhawks won’t wear Pride night jerseys because of new Russian law

A closeup of the Pride flag on the stick of Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen
A stick used during the Florida Panthers’ Pride Day on March 20, 2021.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

The Chicago Blackhawks have decided against wearing special warmup jerseys to commemorate Pride night, citing an anti-gay Kremlin law that could imperil Russian athletes when they return home.

The Blackhawks, who have a Russian player and two others with connections to Russia, will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s game against Vancouver, a person with knowledge of the matter told the Associated Press, because of security concerns involving the law, which expands restrictions on supporting LGBTQ rights. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed it in December.

The decision was made by the Blackhawks following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke Wednesday to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.


Chicago coach Luke Richardson said Thursday that he and his players were disappointed and called it “an unfortunate situation.”

“I don’t think we can control the world issues, so that takes it out of our hands,” Richardson said. “We’re just making decisions as best we can as an organization and for everybody.”

The Kings traded for Joonas Korpisalo to stabilize their goaltending situation. He has responded with three wins in three games.

March 17, 2023

The league declined to comment through a spokesperson, as did agent Dan Milstein, who represents Russian players on the Blackhawks and other teams.

Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country. Zaitsev was not made available to reporters in Washington.

The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks have Pride nights upcoming. The Canucks have not announced specific plans for the event. Sabres management was scheduled to hold discussions Thursday with its player leadership group on the matter, amid concern over whether defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin will participate because he is from Moscow, where he still has family and returns in the offseason to visit.

Lyubushkin and his family members could face a backlash in Russia, according to a Sabres employee with knowledge of the issue. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.


The Florida Panthers — whose star goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, is Russian — planned to go forward with plans to wear the jerseys Thursday night before their home game against Toronto.

The jerseys are just one part of many initiatives Florida built into its annual event. The Panthers will also auction off the jerseys, then match whatever money is raised and donate to nonprofits that work with the LGBTQ community.

“As an organization, we’ve decided, and rightfully so, to move forward with it and support it and celebrate it,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “Teams around the league and players around the league, they’ve got the right to their opinion, and we’ve got the right to ours.”

Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers declined to take part in pregame warmups during the team’s Pride night in January, citing his Russian Orthodox religion. Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, when Canadian goaltender James Reimer refused to take part because he said it conflicted with his religious beliefs.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov skipped pregame warmups when the team wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow tape.

Jan. 18, 2023

The New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their events despite previously advertising they would.

The Blackhawks planned a variety of LGBT-related activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the gay community.


“We don’t want the jerseys to represent the entirety of the night,” Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones said. “We’re still doing a lot for the LGBTQ community, and us as players respect that. We just thought that this was best for our team.”