Vancouver Canucks’ Andrei Kuzmenko won’t wear Pride jersey: coach

The Vancouver Canucks say forward Andrei Kuzmenko will not take part in Friday’s warm-up ahead of the game against the Calgary Flames. @Sarahsinthenews hears from 2SLGBTQIA+ advocates who say they won’t let this ruin the game for them.

The Vancouver Canucks say forward Andrei Kuzmenko will not wear the Pride-themed warmup jersey ahead of Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames.

This development comes after the Canucks announced Wednesday that its players would don Pride-themed warmup jerseys when they celebrate the 2SLGTBQIA+ community on Pride night.

According to head coach Rick Tocchet, Kuzmenko has cited “family” reasons for his decision.

“It’s a big night,” Tocchet said. “Quinn Hughes, exactly what he said yesterday — we really believe hockey’s for everyone, diversity, all that stuff, it’s really important.”

Tocchet says he believes every player, with the exception of Kuzmenko, will wear the jersey.

“That’s a choice, family — I’m not going to get into it because we don’t know the deals that happen over there. So I respect his decision,” the coach added.

The Canucks previously said that, in addition to the warm-up jerseys, the team would be making a $20,000 donation on behalf of the Canucks for Kids Fund to QMUNITY, a non-profit organization in Vancouver that supports and assists 2SLGBTQ+ people and their allies.

“The opportunity to celebrate the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is very important to our entire organization,” said Michael Doyle, president, Canucks Sports & Entertainment, Business Operations, on Wednesday.

“Pride night and all the incredible activities that highlight this evening is special for a number of reasons. Besides raising awareness and understanding, it also lets our fan base know that everyone is welcome here at Rogers Arena. Our club believes strongly in diversity and inclusion, and we look forward to celebrating these core values with our community.”

This comes after a handful of players on other NHL teams decided not to wear Pride jerseys on their own such nights. Some have cited concerns over an anti-queer Kremlin law that could imperil Russian athletes when they return home.

Support for 2SLGBTQIA+ crucial always: Vancouver Pride

Allison Dunne, the co-executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society, says the group will be at the Canucks-Flames game Friday, ready to share any information and show support to anyone in need.

“We expect an organization like the NHL to support a member of our community, the 2SLGBTQIA community, as obviously there are players that are represented, but also because it’s the right thing to do,” she told CityNews.

“It is Trans Day of Visibility today so it’s quite choice to not be wearing a jersey on a day that has so much significance, especially in today’s social climate. So obviously you can’t force people to wear things but this issue is much bigger than individual and all of us are impacted when one of us is attempted to be erased.”

Dunne says the choice of one player to not wear the Pride warm up jersey “symbolically … makes a difference.” However, she adds “having one person not wearing the jersey I don’t think can take down an entire community.”

She says she doesn’t want one person’s decision to overshadow the overall messaging of inclusion and diversity.

“In sports, I know that this is not the first time this has come up. We saw this obviously during the World Cup. My concern is it’s starting to snowball, especially with what’s going on in the States and Uganda and other countries — there’s obviously a sweeping, hateful narrative that we’re up against. So, of course, our representation and community celebration is incredibly important now, as it’s always been. When you’re part of a marginalized group trying to combat hate from a privileged group is futile, but we still persist and we just want to be safe,” Dunne explained.

Trans Day of Visibility

Many are also pointing out the latest development coinciding with the Trans Day of Visibility.

“This isn’t about jerseys, it’s about inclusion, respect, and basic human rights. If someone is too fragile to wear a colourful jersey on the ice when cameras are watching, how do they treat 2SLGBTQ+ people in private?” Community Over Convoys wrote on Twitter.

Some note wearing the jersey is about showing support for inclusion and diversity in hockey.

“It’s the barest minimum gesture of basic tolerance. And yet some players can’t even do that. So disappointing,” @ameliagrace1989 said.

Meanwhile, others are calling the Canucks organization out, saying if the team wants to be a leader, this isn’t the right way to go about it.

Canucks’ 2023 Pride night jersey

The Canucks unveiled their 2023 Pride night jersey on Thursday.

It was designed by Christina Hryc, and features a rainbow in the iconic orca, as well as a monarch butterfly and a pansy.

“The Rainbow is a visible symbol for Pride and represents all who make up the complex community. It’s a promise that equality and visibility are a priority,” the team explained.

“The monarch butterfly is a symbol of mental health awareness. A reminder to be kind to one another. The Pansies are a nod to the first LGBTQ+ movement in the 1930’s known as the Pansy Craze.”

-With files from Martin MacMahon and The Associated Press

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