Bisexual ice hockey pro blasts ‘spineless’ NHL Pride tape ban

Zach Sullivan

Professional ice hockey player Zach Sullivan has slammed National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman over his decision to ban Pride tape. 

The NHL is banning players from using rainbow-coloured tape on their sticks during games, warm-ups and practices, meaning they can no longer overtly show support for the LGBTQ+ community while on the ice.

A memo sent to all teams stated that rainbow tape would be banned even on Pride Nights.

Ahead of the new season, Manchester Storm defenceman Sullivan, who came out as bisexual in January 2020, hit out at Betman’s deciison, calling it “spineless”.

In an interview with The Mirror on Saturday (22 October), Sullivan said: “It’s for the fans, it’s for that team-mate that might be struggling. So I was disappointed but not surprised, which is probably more damning.

“There are so many great people within ice hockey, not just in the UK, but in North America as well, who are trying their utmost week in and week out, trying to make it more inclusive.

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“I think it’s just a massive step backwards when progress is finally being made.”

The 29-year-old Manchester Storm pro praised players in the NHL who have openly condemned the ban and while criticising the NHL Players’ Association, which has remained silent on the issue. 

The Pride tape ban comes just a few months after Bettman confirmed that teams would no longer be allowed to wear Pride jerseys during warm-up sessions this season, stating that they were seen as a “distraction”.

Sullivan added: “It’s frustrating because of how much so many good people put into it. [It is an] Ill-informed, ridiculous, pretty spineless move from this commissioner, who doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to this kind of thing.”

Saturday night also saw Arizona Coyotes defenceman Travis Dermott become the first player to openly defy the NHL’s Pride tape ban this season.

During the club’s 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, Dermott played with a stick wrapped with rainbow tape.

An NHL spokesperson told The Athletic that they will be “reviewing” Dermott’s actions/