I took a deep sigh before beginning this essay because, you know, it’s 2023 and Pride nights at a hockey rink near you shouldn’t be a thing anymore.
Yet here I am, talking about the same old thing. (Another sigh.)
As far as I can determine, Pride nights at sporting events are designed to convey one basic message to a specific, marginalized group. To wit: Members of the LGBT(etc.) collective are welcome.
And it’s meant to be a broad-stroke embrace, a virtual hug not just for fans, but employees, as well.
“You’re lesbian? A gay man? Bisexual? Transgender? Queer? Etcetera? It’s all good. Come on down and join all the heteros to sample some of our over-priced hot dogs and beer in our safe space!”
So what does it say when a National Hockey League franchise’s most-visible, highest-paid and fawned-over employees—the on-ice workers—decline to play along?
Ivan Provorov didn’t want to play along two months ago on Philadelphia Flyers Pride Night, so he flashed the religion card after refusing to wear a team-approved jersey in support of the LGBT(etc.) community.
“My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion,” the Russian Orthodox rearguard explained, without actually explaining anything.
Perhaps James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks can explain it to us, because he joined the NHL’s Rainbow Resistance Movement on Saturday. While his comrades adorned themselves in LGBT(etc.)-themed jerseys in a pregame frolic, the veteran goaltender remained hunkered down in the players’ lair, perhaps quietly wondering why Jesus spent three-plus years roaming the countryside mostly in the exclusive company of 12 hand-picked men, one of whom betrayed him with, yes, a kiss.
“I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life,” was Reimer’s reasoning in a Sharks-sanctioned statement.
He later told news snoops this: “I get what the message is. I think people are trying to support the community and I’m sure people in the community feel marginalized. For me, to some extent, that’s what you want to do is you want to love them, but what I keep reiterating is where it intersects with a Christian…you love them, but you can’t support the activity or lifestyle.”
Hmmm. Who knew that being gay was an “activity?” Or a “lifestyle?”
But if by “activity” Reimer means sex, yes, gay people are guilty of having sex, just like heterosexual men and women. If by “lifestyle” he means a 9-to-5 job, or feeding the homeless, or going to movies and dinner parties and church every Sunday, or getting married and raising families, or shopping for groceries, yes, also guilty, yer honor. You know, just like heterosexual men and women.
Hockey is an “activity.” Many gays are very good at it.
So did the Bible allow Reimer to root, root, root for Canada during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China? There were seven out lesbians on that Canadian team that struck gold. Brianne Jenner, one of those lesbians, was the tournament MVP. Did the Bible allow him to cheer for our soccer women who collected the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics? There were four out lesbians, one non-binary player and an out coach on that outfit.
I’m guessing that because Reimer is of good Manitoba stock, he was fully on board with our hockey and soccer sides.
But, hey, heaven forbid he slip a rainbow-colored jersey over his head, lest he turn into a pillar of salt, like Lot’s wife.
Both Reimer and Provorov are right about one thing, though: It is a “choice” to support or pooh-pooh an LGBT(etc.)-friendly initiative, but it’s such a convenience to have the Bible, or any other religious dogma, to use as a defensive reflex when the predictable, yowling mob arrives to collect its pound of flesh on social media.
I just wonder if they believe the entirety of the Holy Book, or do they pick and choose which chapter and verse to accept as gospel? Do they buy into the Jesus walking on water story? How about the multiplying of loaves and fish? Water into wine? Raising the dead?
Whatever the case, spewing scripture earned Provorov and Reimer a public flogging, but it’s all good because their employers have their backs: “It’s okay to be anti-gay as long as you thump a Bible.” As if.
None of this is to ignore the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, two franchises that reneged on Pride Night promotions promising rainbow togs to be worn pregame, then auctioned in support of LGBT(etc.) causes. Both clubs declined to come clean on the reasoning behind the twin about-face, except, of course, to issue statements pledging unwavering support for the LGBT(etc.) community, even as their unwavering support wavered. Ditto the Sharks on Saturday.
I think we all know where this thing is headed: Pride nights will remain on team calendars, but players no longer will be paraded in rainbow-themed warmup garb. Thus, anti-gay players on NHL rosters (I like to think they’re in the minority) won’t be required to hide behind the Bible anymore. They can keep their religion and anti-gay bias on the QT.
This isn’t purely an NHL issue. Five pitchers with the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t want to play along on Pride Night last June, when the Major League Baseball club asked players to wear uniforms adorned with rainbow sleeve patches and rainbow TB lettering on their caps.
“A lot of it comes down to faith, to like a faith-based decision,” Jason Adam told news snoops. “So it’s a hard decision. Because ultimately we all said what we want is them to know that all are welcome and loved here. But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe—not that they look down on anybody or think differently—it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different.”
I turned on my flatscreen this week and the 1970s NHL broke out:
Anthony Stewart was on Sportsnet promoting meathead hockey.
Luke Gazdik was on Sportsnet telling us that “there is a major need” for fighting in hockey. “This is what I did for a living, so I truly love this part of the game.” And on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League banning fisticuffs: “I think it’s a bit of a joke.” (Holy cement head, Batman!)
St. Louis Blues trotted out rasslin fossil Ric Flair to crank up the crowd and the home side.
Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington went off his nut (again), challenging the Minnesota bench, then turning total meathead by attacking Wild players.
Marc-Andre Fleury raced from one end of the freeze to the other in a bid to chuck knuckles with Binnington.
The men in stripes kept the two goalies from scratching each other’s eyes out.
Brayden Schenn said a goalie fight would have been boffo for “viewership and ratings and talking about the game.”
Good grief. Did I nod off and miss a successful coupe d’état by Vince McMahon and Triple H? Is the NHL now a WWE sideshow?
If you missed it (and my guess is you did), a burger joint beat the bankers last weekend to win what The Canadian Press described as the “coveted” 2023 Secret Cup. Translated, that means Team Harvey’s one-upped Team Scotiabank in the final skirmish of this winter’s Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association series of glorified scrimmages. The frolic was conducted in Palm Desert, Calif., where it was mostly ignored, but it did produce the PWHPA’s 1,189th photo-op with Billie Jean King.
Now that the PWHPA has ceased storming barns hither and yon, we await official word that the women have formed a second professional league to compete against the Premier Hockey Federation, with teams representing cities or states/provinces, not burger joints and banks. Ponytail Puck couldn’t make a go of it with two loops in 2019, when players were basically paid with food stamps and Canadian Tire money, so word that salaries will be in the $55,000 range makes this is an extremely iffy bit of business. That doesn’t mean it’s doomed before they drop the puck, but a roster of 20 at $55,000 per player is a $1,100,000 payroll. Couple that with the PHF’s per team salary cap of $1.5 million in 2023-24, and I’m not convinced there’s a market for competing leagues. Especially if the PWHPA invades already established PHF locales.
Wow, some unexpected goings-on during the Juno Awards last weekend. Hockey star Connor McDavid made a cameo appearance to intro his “friends” and newly minted Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Nickelback, then an Avril Lavigne intro was hijacked by a woman with her bare boobs hanging out. It’s believed she’s the lead singer for a new all-girl group, Nippleback.
Separatist Pierre Karl Péladeau has been Lord of the Montreal Larks for more than a week now, and there hasn’t been the slightest hint of buyer’s remorse from Monsieur Pierre. His takeover of the CFL orphans seems to be popular in La Belle Province, and he and his $1.9 billion bankroll certainly are a godsend to the eight teams that won’t be required to foot the bill for the Larks had they remained foster footballers. It’s a 100 per cent good-news story. So why do I expect the other shoe to drop? Maybe I just don’t trust billionaires.
Here’s Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette on the Larks freshly minted papa gâteau: “It’s not inconceivable that Péladeau’s tenure as owner of the Alouettes could become an audition of sorts for the NHL. If eight other CFL owners can swallow their distaste for Péladeau’s politics, perhaps some future NHL commissioner less obdurate than Bettman will be open to repatriating the Nordiques.
“For the present, we’ll keep an open mind. The Alouettes were desperately in need of a local owner, preferably French-Canadian, with passion and deep pockets. Péladeau checks all the boxes.
“Yes, Péladeau has his weaknesses. But in the CFL galaxy, he is a superstar, a charismatic billionaire with a chequebook and a plan. We wish him luck.”
This just in: Hell has frozen over! I say that because the Football Reporters of Canada has opened the door to the ultimate Old Boys Club and invited Vicki Hall to enter. Yup, Vicki will become the first female to join 100-plus men in the media wing of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame later this year, but don’t ask me why it took them so long to acknowledge a woman. I’m just surprised that Vicki’s the first, because I thought it would have been a pioneering female football reporter from the 20th century who got the call. One of Robin Brown, Joanne Ireland, Ashley Prest or Judy Owen would have been my choice, but I guess the football reporters don’t have me on speed dial. Either that, or I was in the john when they called for my input.
Just so no one runs off with the wrong notion, that isn’t a slight against Vicki, a deserving inductee who earned her chops at the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald. But she didn’t have to deal with a horse-and-buggy thinker like Cal Murphy, who took absurd measures to prevent females from entering the Winnipeg Blue Bombers changing room in the 1990s. Both Brown and Prest dealt with the Winnipeg GM/coach’s roadblocks, and I’d say that alone qualifies them for sainthood and a spot in the Football Hall.
Hey, check it out. The ReStore outlet at 60 Archibald St. in Good Ol’ Hometown has been peddling Saskatchewan Roughriders gloves for a buck a pair. Yup, just $1. That’s a tough sell in Winnipeg, though. According to 3DownNation, they moved just five pair last week.
Now that I’ve mentioned 3DownNation, let me go on record as saying it’s a fabulous site, full of info and opinion on all things Rouge Football.
Old friend young Eddie Tait, who isn’t so young and doesn’t have a full head of hair anymore, continues to churn out the quality stuff for the Bombers website. It doesn’t seem so long ago that Eddie left the daily grind of newspaper deadlines behind to join Winnipeg FC, and I’d say typing with two Grey Cup rings hasn’t soured his skill. His stuff is better than ever.
Oh, dear, FIFA has expanded the men’s World Cup futbol tournament from 64 to 104 games. You know what that means, don’t you? That’s right, an additional 3,600 dives (4,600 if Italy qualifies) and an extra 400 minutes of fake injury time (500 if Italy qualifies).
I’m not sure what to make of the current state affairs among our Pebble People. I mean, is it good that the same small clutch of curlers keeps winning the big baubles? Check out the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in the past 10 years: The champion skips have been Kerry Einarson (4), Jennifer Jones, Chelsea Carey and Rachel Homan (2 apiece). At the Brier, Brad Gushue (5), Kevin Koe (3), Brendan Bottcher and Pat Simmons (1 apiece), have gone home with the Tankard. Further, on the men’s side, the recently concluded Brier was the first time since 2013 that an Alberta team wasn’t in the final. Has everybody else forgotten how to play the game?
Here’s the odd part for me: I’m delighted that Einarson and her gal pals from Gimli keep winning the Scotties, but I long ago grew weary of watching Gushue win the Brier.
Former Canadian and Olympic champion Ryan Fry says he’s slid from the hack for the last time, but I’m not buying it. I’m wagering we’ll see Small Fry back on the pebble before the next Olympic Trials.
And, finally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will replace Tom Brady at quarterback next season with Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask. That’s like replacing Einstein with Homer Simpson as class valedictorian.