Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly joined other players Tuesday in speaking out against the NHL’s new policy that bans the use of rainbow-colored tape on sticks at supposed Pride Nights. celebrate inclusion.
“It’s unfortunate, but I think as players and people we’re going to continue to support the causes that we think are worthy and very deserving,” Rielly said after Toronto’s final practice before the start of the regular season Wednesday. “I would like players to have the right to do more and get more involved. We’re going to continue and be allies no matter what the league says.
The NHL sent a memo to teams last week clarifying what players can do as part of the themed celebrations. The guidelines state their uniforms and equipment cannot be altered to reflect theme nights, including Pride, Hockey Fights Cancer, Black History Night or Military Appreciation Night. The NHL will allow its players to voluntarily participate in themed off-ice celebrations.
In Edmonton on Tuesday, Connor McDavid, the league’s biggest star, said he disagreed with the NHL’s decision.
“I enjoyed all the nights we celebrated, whether it was Pride Night, Army Night, or Native Night, all the different nights we had the chance to celebrate,” said McDavid, the captain of the Oilers. “From a league perspective, it’s something I’d like to see put back in place one day, certainly.”
McDavid’s teammate, Zach Hyman, who previously played for the maple leavesexpressed his frustration.
“We’ll be able to support them individually, but collectively it’s out of the players’ control,” Hyman said. “It’s disappointing.”
The NHL decided in June not to allow teams to wear themed jerseys for warmups after a handful of players opted out of those situations on Pride Night last season. The league said players withdrawing from Pride nights was a distraction to the teams’ work in the community.
“You know what our goals, our values and our intentions are across the league,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in February during All-Star weekend festivities. “But we also have to respect certain individual choices, and some people are more comfortable than others in committing to a cause. And part of being diverse and welcoming is understanding these differences.
Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov was the first player to decide not to participate in warmups when the Flyers wore rainbow-colored jerseys before their Pride Night game in January, citing his Russian Orthodox faith. Six other players followed for various reasons – Russians Ilya Lyubushkin, Denis Gurianov and Andrei Kuzmenko and Canadians James Reimer, Eric and Marc Staal – and individual teams, including the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Blackhawks. Chicago, have decided not to have any players. wear Pride jerseys during warm-ups.
Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving said the NHL’s directive would not change the organization’s commitment to LGBTQ community.
“Regardless of what happens, this organization has always supported the community, and that’s not going to change.”
New season, new expectations
Another season begins for the Maple Leafs and with it comes expectations.
Oh, the expectations. We’re not in Columbus, Ohio, or Tempe, Arizona, where simply becoming relevant is an improvement.
This is the toughest market in the NHL and the best or worst place to play based on results – which have been shorter than fans would like in years.
Toronto won a playoff round last spring – for the first time since 2004. We’ll soon see if it’s just one more thing or a major stepping stone.
After the final pre-puck practice of the 2023-24 campaign, everything seemed ridiculous. A season of either excitement or – you know, something else – begins when the Montreal Canadiens visit Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.
As always, everyone in the organization is enthusiastic. Let’s go back to last year, the year before that, and the year before that too, and play it again: “A great opportunity awaits us.” Which may well be the case, or maybe someone will step on a rake and do a face plant in the front yard again.
Let’s call it cautious optimism. There should be an asterisk here.
“Expectations are high, but to be honest, our main goal is to get off to a good start,” Toronto defenseman Rielly said Tuesday after a spirited 50-minute practice session. He’s 29 and about to enter his 11th season and has experienced the annual frustration longer than anyone. “We had a good training camp, but I think it’s a little early to be looking at end-of-year goals and all that. We are not going to get too carried away by a too distant vision of the future.
Construction has been done on the roster and this iteration of the Maple Leafs should be more dynamic than those of the recent past. Maybe Ryan Reaves will drop the gloves or Max Domi will deliver an ill-intentioned hit to send a message to the league – “We’re not going to get pushed around” – right off the bat. This might actually be refreshing. Go on the offensive first.
Who would expect this?
There was a little last minute cleaning to do. Toronto announced it had signed forward Noah Gregor to a one-year, US$775,000 contract, who joined the team for training camp on a professional tryout offer.
Gregor is 25 years old and fast, having played 178 games at right wing for the San Jose Sharks over the previous four years.
It’s here today and gone tomorrow for Easton Cowan, the 18-year-old first-round pick who impressed during the preseason. He had a good performance, but was sent back to the London Knights of the OHL.
Fraser Minten, who once again looked sharp during drills at the Ford Performance Center as he centered a line between Matthew Knies and Calle Jarnkrok, is there for the start. He is only 19 years old and wears a bracelet that says: “No excuses, no limits.”
It will be interesting if Toronto keeps him or limits it to nine authorized matches before he had to be sent back to the Kamloops Blazers of Western Hockey League.
So far, he’s been turning heads.
“At the start of camp we had the Leafs guys, the Marlies guys and then the others,” said Treliving, the team’s general manager. “He was one of the others.”
He’s never played above the major junior level, so that’s quite a jump.
“He’s forced his way onto the roster, but he’s going to play men now and not boys,” Treliving said. “We’ll see what he can do to help us win.
“It’s very rare for a 19-year-old to come in and do that.”
The temperature started to drop and hockey is about to heat up.
Can the Maple Leafs win their division for the first time since 2000? (Toronto finished first in the all-Canadian Scotia North Championship in 2021, but the season was shortened by a pandemic. Can the Leafs advance to a third round of the playoffs, or even win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967 .
“We hope to be great, but we can’t look to the future,” said Mitch Marner, who fell one point below 100 last year. “We just have to stay in the moment, be here and now and make sure we try to get better every day.”
Painful lessons relegated Toronto to the sidelines too soon and for too long. We’ll see how much he learned.
With a report from The Canadian Press