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The NHL is not having much luck these days with their Celebration nights. On January 17, Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov declined to take part in the warm-up because he didn’t want to wear the special Pride jersey the Flyers were going to wear for religious reasons. As expected, others have followed suit since. So that players wouldn’t be singled out, the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks (citing the security of their Russian players since Russia as enacted a law making it illegal for Russians to promote or praise LGBTQ relationships – never mind the fact that a law cannot have extraterritorial effect) just cancelled their Pride night. James Reimer of the Sharks also decided against wearing the jersey on March 18, mentioning that his decision was based on his Christian beliefs and just this week, former Hab Eric Staal and his brother Marc, who now play for the Panthers, also decided to opt out.
The Staal Brothers put out a statement that read: “After many thoughts, prayers and discussions we have chosen not to wear a pride jersey tonight. We carry no judgement on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey. Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs. We hope you can respect this statement, we will not be speaking any further on this matter and would like to continue to focus on the game and helping the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup”. Unsurprisingly, the media did make them speak more about it and Eric Staal said: “I haven’t before. I never have… I haven’t worn a pride jersey before”. Apparently, Staal forgot about Pride night in Montreal in 2021.
I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the whole point of the Pride nights which is an initiative of the Hockey is for Everyone movement is to say that everyone is welcome in hockey. It’s not about celebrating a lifestyle choice (which is not a choice by the way), it’s simply about saying everyone is welcome here and we will not discriminate against you for who you are. Why does that need to be said? Simply because for years, there’s been discrimination and intimidation. It’s important that people know they are allowed to be themselves and they won’t be picked on for it, it sends the message that a same-sex couple can attend the game without fear of intimidation and that’s important.
The Canadiens have yet to hold their Pride night so far this season and I truly hope that when they do, no one will opt out. Hopefully, Indigenous Celebration Night will go smoothly and no one will feel their religious beliefs prevents them from participating in a night that shows openness and willingness to showcase different communities and diversity.
There will be a couple of line-up changes tonight. First, Samuel Montembeault will be back in net instead of Jake Allen while Jordan Harris will be back taking over for Chris Wideman. Up front, Jesse Ylonen will get Rem Pitlick’s spot. Yesterday, the league announced that AJ Greer received a one game suspension for cross-checking Mike Hoffman to the face during the tilt against the Bruins. The Habs’ player was less than impressed considering he got a 2-game suspension himself for cross-checking someone in the back of the head. After Greer’s hit, Hoffman had to get 15 stitches outside and 10 stitches inside of his mouth. Needless to say he wasn’t impressed and he let everyone know so on his Instagram.
Tonight’s opponent the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town having won their last 2 games but they are still 31st in the standings, with 53 points, the same total as the Shark who have played one more game. They are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and by virtue of their 31st place, they currently have a 13.5% chance of winning the lottery. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are still 28th, 4 points behind both the Coyotes and Flyers and a loss tonight would go a long way towards consolidating their 8.5% chance of claiming the big prize come lottery night. The teams have played each other twice this year, Montreal winning the last meeting 3-1 while Columbus took the first one 6-4. Whatever happens though, at least we won’t get to hear the Jacket’s goal cannon since the game is in Montreal, that’s always a plus.
It's also worth noting that Sean Farrell could soon be a Hab as his team fell in the NCAA tournament yesterday and since their season is over, he's now free to sign a professional contract. GM Kent Hughes has already said in the past that he would be looking to ink him to an entry level deal, so this should happen in the coming days, the Farrell watch is on everyone!