So much for the NHL's 'inclusion' push

Marc Elliott

PARK POINT – When I look up the word "freedom" in the dictionary it has a pretty straightforward definition attached to it. It states that it is "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint."  

That's what I was taught as a kid and learned throughout my lifetime. But as I look around now, especially here in the United States, that is anything but what I see. At the risk of contempt or being on the opposite end of generational angst against me, which I don't understand, I admit to being a "boomer." So what. I never thought there was anything in it about being for or against another generation just because they were older or younger than me.  

I bring it up because for those who have studied generational science and psychology, there seems to be little doubt about how much conditioning, influencing, and indoctrination the boomer generation went through in school and society in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. I am no different. Of course, as I grew up and aged the realities of life here have exposed many things. In the age of instant information, there are no secrets anymore.  

Like how many people here aren't really for freedom as the definition in the dictionary states. Or how many people have no problems discriminating against others because they are different from themselves. And then the one that really annoys me, their own personal biblical interpretations that they believe support their maniacal desire to hate others and force them to live under a different set or standard of rules than everyone else. As an American, I can state that as a believer in freedom I feel ou are entitled to your viewpoint on such.  

Needless to say, I will disagree with you. Issues like freedom, equality, discrimination, racism and so forth are non-negotiable with me. If you are against freedom and equality, and if you think it's OK to discriminate and to be racist to boot, I don't even view you as being true to American principles. You are "free" to hold your viewpoints, but others are subject to being against the law here. Doesn't our own Declaration of Independence state that "all men are created equal"? Or is that only the pile of bologna that I have come to view it as?   

The National Hockey League, in its eminent wisdom, has been supportive of varying social issues in the recent past. One of those issues is inclusion, and that involves a couple of different components. One is in the recognition of disadvantaged youth who desire to learn and play the game of hockey but can't, usually due to the high costs of involvement in the sport. If you've been in or around the game, you know it isn't an inexpensive endeavor. The other part of that is in how many kids and young people that impacts and that a majority of them are kids of color from economically challenged situations.      

This is one area where I think the league has had some positive results. Don't get me wrong, there is still work to be done, but there have been successes to report on. The other area where the league has taken a strong initiative has been in the recognition of "Pride Nights" and in pushing for "inclusion" for all. The very first recognized Pride night in hockey dates back to 2013 and was held by the FLA Panthers. As recently as 2018, and before there were the 32 teams the league now has, all 31 clubs had their own version of Pride or "Inclusion" nights.  

And up until now, the events were held, no one challenged them or made a fuss about it and they went off without a hitch. That has all changed in just the past few weeks. In mid-January, a PHI Flyers player from Russia, Ivan Provorov, refused to wear the Pride "rainbow" jersey in warmups and in fact, wouldn't take part in the warmup at all. He stated his "Russian Orthodox" faith precluded him from doing so.  

For some context here, Russia heavily discriminates against the LGBTIQA+ communities, and sadly, to be openly gay in that country is to place yourself in a lot of danger, including possible physical harm. From what I could find out about Russian Orthodoxy, there appear to be at least two different strains of it. One is hateful and spiteful towards gays, and the other one seems to care less about the issue. One thing is clear though, it's ok and not against the law there to hate or discriminate against them.  

Sadly, some in the US, mostly right-wing evangelical extremists, aligned with the Republican party and MAGA movement are trending that way. They desire for our country to adopt laws similar to the discriminatory practices of countries that openly advocate for the hate of others. That doesn't sound like the definition of freedom to me.  

Our own Minnesota WILD scrapped its Pride night event mere moments away from its start. There were many things planned for the evening to recognize and promote inclusion, including the wearing of WILD-Pride jerseys, then a vague statement was issued by club owner Craig Leipold right before warmups were to begin and it was off. Other things planned for the evening were still held. The club made no other mention of the issue that I'm aware of, and no Twin Cities reporters held their feet to the fire over it, and that was that.  

Of course, the aftermath was contentious. Those in support of the night were highly disappointed. Those who were already against it, at least the ones vocal about that, were somewhat joyous. And those who are neutral about it were the quietest. Since other players have followed suit in their non-support of the issue, the league has seemingly been neutralized by the players who decided to not stand in support of it. They have issued no strong statements against those who refused participation.      

I'm still in the place where my own internal debate over this is in process. Many questions come to mind. Is it a good idea for pro sports leagues to get involved in political issues of any type, controversial or not? In today's US domestic environment of hate and division, perhaps not. But then, the haters, who are in the minority on this particular issue, obtain an upper hand they should not possess. It isn't OK to discriminate against anyone in my view.  

Of Dale Carnegies' "12 core principles” I often consider the one that states to "try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view." I have but can't see any way that hate and discrimination are acceptable. Have any of the haters ever mentally placed themselves in the shoes of those they want to discriminate against? I highly doubt it.  

For the most part, these nights are informative along with the LGBTIQA+ community asking the haters amongst us to accept them, to have tolerance, to not discriminate against them, to not physically assault them or worse, and to allow them to live in peace as they wish. For all of its good intentions, the NHL has now failed them. And our local team has too. I'd like an explanation. PEACE