Travis Dermott had a lot on his mind as he carefully wrapped the shaft of his hockey stick with rainbow-colored tape.
The NHL had dispatched a memo to teams before the season, reiterating its ban on altering on-ice gear for warmups and practices to reflect theme nights.
The Arizona Coyotes defenseman was about to become the first player to defy that edict on supporting social causes — including Pride tape for the LGBTQIA+ community. And he was going to do it in a game.
“A bunch of thoughts are going through your head,” Dermott said Friday. “But not one of them was, ‘Should I do this or shouldn’t I do this?’ It was more, ‘How fast is it going to blow up? How much is it going to blow up? Is anyone even going to notice?’
“It had to be done. I was going to deal with whatever came my way.”
What came his way was an avalanche of support after Dermott sported the tape on Saturday in Arizona’s home opener against the Los Angeles Kings.
It also didn’t take long for the NHL to backpedal. The league announced less than 72 hours later its ban on using stick tape to support social causes, including rainbow-colored Pride tape, had been rescinded.
The 26-year-old from Newmarket, Ontario, said working for causes away from the rink is great, but on TV under the bright lights is where there’s the most exposure.
“That’s when those little things would be picked up in the most meaningful way, the most powerful way,” he said. “My parents really made it an important lesson that you want to be the best influence you can for the next generation.”
Pride nights became a hot-button issue in hockey after six players chose not to participate in pregame warmups last season when their team wore rainbow-themed jerseys. Teams this season are not allowed to wear any kind of theme jerseys, including military appreciation and Hockey Fights Cancer, for warmups.
Players across the league publicly expressed their disappointment of the league’s guidance.
Dermott said standing up isn’t always easy but becoming a father for the first time last year — and with another baby on the way — shifted his perspective.
“This got laid out in front of me,” he said. “And with the amount that I care about [the LGBTQIA+] community and the amount of ties that I had before doing this, and now the amount of people that have come out of the woodwork saying that this affected them in a way that I didn’t even think was possible … it lets you know it was probably the right move.”
It was also a risk. Dermott inked a one-year, two-way contract for about the league minimum in Arizona this summer after an injury-ravaged 2022-23 season with the Vancouver Canucks. He noted he didn’t know what the “repercussions could be.”
But if things went against him, it would be on his terms.
“That alone pushed me to go through with this,” Dermott said. “As well as the support from my team … they gave me the confidence to stand up for what was right.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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