Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
The league wants to celebrate its fans’ unique backgrounds. Is that best served by lumping all fans together?
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally ran as the cover story for the Game Time publication for Wednesday night’s game against the Flyers. The publication is sold outside every Blues home game. Check it out.]
The Flyers were all over social media last week with their Pride Night festivities. More on that later, but all of the attention led editor Brad to double check when the Blues were doing their Pride event. They aren’t. But before I get into the heart of the matter, I feel the need to introduce myself.
Hi, I’m Morgan. I go by ThinMints via the glorious platforms of the interweb. I’ve had the privilege of writing for this paper now for almost a dozen articles. It’s been a great experience for me and a sort of coming out platform for something I’ve been passionate about, and that’s hockey. This paper allows me to give my unwavering (sometimes stubborn) opinions about the world of hockey, which is all dear to us. Hey, that’s why you’re here reading, you love hockey. I do, too.
Hockey is a dazzling and tenacious sport that brings people from all different walks of life together, from all different places around the world. That’s not to say that I am unaware of the inclusiveness problems that the sport seemingly glazes over time and again. I recognize those problems and think all levels of hockey can work toward being better at being inclusive to everyone. Hockey is a beloved sport that shouldn’t discriminate, period.
With the NHL attempting to do so much to be inclusive, even having a specific website dedicated to Pride, it really shocked me to learn the Blues did not bring back a Pride Night for the 2019-20 season. Pride STL organizes the annual parade and festival in downtown St. Louis. In August the group released a statement that said, “Following a historic championship season, the Blues praised their fan base as key motivators for their success. In choosing to take away a night that openly welcomes our community sends a clear message that the LGBTQIA+ community is not a valued member of that fan base.”
The Blues first held Pride Night in 2017. That was an even before the St. Louis Cardinals first held theirs. I will never forget seeing the Note lit up in rainbow colors throughout the arena for the first time. It was nice to see the organization that I had put so much time and money into supporting give a little bit of support back to a community that I am a part of.
Now, I wasn’t able to attend the very first Pride Night, but I did attend the past two. I remember walking into the arena in February 2018 and being so happy and excited. It was one of the first nights that I didn’t feel like I was being watched or judged for simply holding my wife’s hand while walking around the concourse. We sat in our seats after grabbing a couple of beers and some food, ready to enjoy a great night of hockey, but that was not to be the case. A gentleman sitting a few rows behind us started to yell a few choice words directed at the LGBTQ community. And it wasn’t just once or twice. He continued to do this for almost the entire first and second periods. My wife and I ended up leaving the game late in the second because of him. Later the Blues reached out to me via Twitter to try to locate the gentleman and take care of the problem. I’m not quite sure what became of that situation, but I know it left a sour taste in my mouth.
The next Pride Night I attended was this past year’s event in February 2019. I was surprised to walk in and not see any rainbow-colored logos or anything remotely stating that it was Pride Night. Nothing was welcoming or Pride related in the concourse to my knowledge, no member of the LGBTQ community dropped the puck. It felt like any other game. I remember Tweeting something along the lines of how disappointed I was in the event, or the fact that the Blues had even referred to it as Pride Night and sold theme tickets for it. I came to find out later the Blues had apparently changed to theme a few days before the game to “Hockey Is For Everyone.” Now, I specifically remember buying a theme night ticket for Pride Night. It was labeled Pride Night, and I used the code PRIDE19 to buy it. You can imagine my shock to learn the Blues organization decided to water it down and changed the theme a few days before the game. I know it made me feel like the Blues were ashamed of me, of the community I belong too. I know others felt the same way. Pride STL said it best that year: “The St. Louis Blues hosted their third-annual Pride Night on Tuesday, February 12th; however, the St. Louis Blues forgot to include the Pride.”
Game Time reached out to the Blues with questions about why no Pride Night is on the schedule. According to a Blues spokesperson, “This particular initiative, with leadership from the NHL, has evolved into ‘Hockey is for Everyone.’ The idea or the goal behind that was to be as inclusive as possible. So the initiative, in its current application, is truly ALL inclusive and aims to celebrate everyone no matter the race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or physical or mental handicap.” The spokesperson went on to say the Blues, “…are currently in the process of discussing and potentially planning an exclusive Hockey Is For Everyone event for later this season.”
If Hockey Is For Everyone is a league-wide initiative, why do other organizations still celebrate a Pride Night? Take the Flyers’ night which led to us looking at the issue. Their event was Jan. 8 against the Washington Capitals. They sold theme night tickets that included a rainbow-colored Flyers logo t-shirt. They made Pride Night phone wallpapers for fans that included Gritty carrying the rainbow flag. Gritty was on the ice waiving around a pride flag. The ice was lit in rainbow colors with the Flyers logo. Hell, even the escalators to upper sections of their arena had a decorated archway with the word Pride and rainbow balloons.
The Flyers are also not the only team to hold Pride Night this month. Quite a few teams have already had the special night. The Capitals held theirs the night before the Flyers, Jan. 7. The Islanders just had theirs last night. The NHL has moved away from having a Pride Night? That just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why wouldn’t the Blues want to be more inclusive? Why wouldn’t they want a larger represented fan base?
I guess winning a Stanley Cup means they don’t have to fake inclusiveness to help sell tickets anymore.
The Blues went from completely being all-in on a Pride Night celebration to not even having a night of inclusiveness. And if you’re wondering why inclusiveness matters, just do a simple Google search of why Pride still matters.
As much as I am extremely disappointed in the St. Louis Blues organization, I will continue to support the Blues. I will continue to go to games and enjoy myself. I will continue to be out and open and proud of who I am. Because that’s what a Pride Night is about: being prideful about yourself. Hopefully the Blues and Pride STL can work together again one day. St. Louis fans deserve that.