Ilya Lyubushkin, who plays defense on the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, won’t be taking part in the warm-up before their Pride Night game against the Montreal Canadiens. He’s refusing to wear a special jersey for this night because a law was passed in Russia that doesn’t allow people of the LGBTQIA+ community to have rights.
Lyubushkin is from Moscow and has family that still lives there. He goes back to Russia during the time between hockey seasons. The Sabres team will wear their Pride jerseys for their warmup on Monday.
The Buffalo Sabres are happy to help out the LGBTQIA+ community by having a special game on their third annual Pride Night. It’s really important for them to use their influence and make sure hockey can be enjoyed by everyone.
Our team believes that wearing Pride jerseys and using Pride tape during warmups is the best way to gain people’s support. However, we understand that some players do not want to take the risk of joining us in this activity. Captain Kyle Okposo also understands why his teammate Lyubushkin might be hesitant since it may be dangerous for Russian players.
Okposo said that there is a lot of sensitivity when it comes to this topic, especially for Russians. As an American from North America, he doesn’t understand what it’s like to be in Russia and how Russian players grow up. He understands that it’s impossible for people from other countries to completely understand the psychology of the Russian players because they haven’t experienced life in Russia themselves.
In the NHL recently, some teams and players have made decisions about special ‘Pride Nights’ based on their connections with Russia.
On Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks were supposed to celebrate their Pride Night. They had special jerseys for the event but didn’t wear them. That was because of a Russian law that limits rights of people who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Florida Panthers’ goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky from Russia, wore a special Pride jersey on Thursday during the team’s event. On that same night, Panthers’ players Eric and Marc Staal did not wear the Pride jerseys because of their Christian beliefs.
In January, the Philadelphia Flyers had a special night to celebrate Pride and their defenseman Ivan Provorov skipped the warm-up due to his Russian Orthodox religion. Similarly, when the San Jose Sharks had their own Pride night celebration earlier this month, goalie James Reimer also skipped the warm-up for religious reasons. Furthermore, The Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers chose not to put on their pride jerseys while warming up even though they were originally planning on it.