Minnesota Wild host Pride Night, but without Pride jerseys during warmups

Two hockey players on the ice during a game
Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (left) handles the puck against Calgary Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar during the first period of a game Tuesday in St. Paul.
Stacy Bengs | AP

Updated 3:15 p.m.

The Minnesota Wild hosted its second annual Pride Night on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, but the evening didn’t include a planned centerpiece event.

The sports news website The Athletic reported the team had been scheduled to wear Pride jerseys during pregame warmups, in a show of support for LGBTQ people as the team had done in March 2022 for its first Pride Night.

The Athletic also reported that the team had promoted an auction of the latest Pride jerseys, but that post was later removed — and the Wild players did not end up wearing the special jerseys before Tuesday’s game against Calgary.

The Associated Press reported that Minnesota players did use Pride pucks and some had Pride tape on their sticks during warmups.

“Last night, the Minnesota Wild made a decision to not have the team wear their [Pride] jerseys so that the players who chose not to, which I will remind you was very few, didn’t draw the attention away from the true reason behind the night,” Twin Cities Pride Executive Director Andi Otto said in a video posted to Instagram.

The team issued a statement to MPR News on Wednesday saying it “is proud to continue our support of the LGBTQIA+ community by hosting our second annual Pride Night last night, which we celebrated in many ways. It is important to host nights like this to show all players, fans, and the LGBTQIA+ community that hockey is for everyone. We will continue to utilize our platform to strengthen our community and create a greater State of Hockey.”

The team’s statement did not specifically address why the players didn’t wear Pride jerseys during warmups, or how any decisions changing plans were reached. The team said it had no further comment Wednesday.

Otto said the Minnesota Wild contributes to Twin Cities Pride in ways that go beyond jerseys, including donations that are used for an LGBTQ youth hockey camp.

“They continue to partner with us and make sure that queer youth has the hockey equipment that they need to be successful in the sport,” he said. “So while I understand —and I’m upset too — that the team didn’t wear the jerseys last night, I want to remind everybody that it is far more than that. It’s about their commitment to the community.”

Among other Pride Night events and initiatives Tuesday, Jack Jablonski, a former Minnesota high school hockey player who has been paralyzed since 2011 and announced last year that he was gay, performed the pregame “Let’s Play Hockey!” pregame chant.

Wild defenseman Jon Merrill donated tickets to Tuesday’s game to Queerspace Collective, a mentorship program for LGBTQ youth in Minnesota.

The Associated Press reported that earlier this season in the NHL, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their Pride Night events despite previously advertising they planned to do so.

And a Philadelphia Flyers player did not take part in warmups before a January game because he refused to wear a Pride-themed jersey, citing his Russian Orthodox religion.