Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov did not take the pregame skate Tuesday night because he refused to wear the team’s LGBTQ+ Pride Night Warmup jersey, citing his religious beliefs.
Provorov, 26, told reporters after the Flyers’ 5-2 home win over the Anaheim Ducks that it was his decision “to stay true to myself and my religion,” which he described as Russian Orthodox.
“I respect everyone. I respect everyone’s decisions,” he said.
Before the game, the Flyers wore Pride jerseys and used rainbow ribbon-wrapped sticks, both of which will be auctioned off by Flyers Charities, with the proceeds going to their efforts to spread the game to various communities.
Provorov was the only Flyers player not to have a jersey or bat up for auction after the game.
The Flyers released a statement ahead of Provorov’s postgame comments:
“The Philadelphia Flyers organization is an inclusive organization and proud to support the LGBTQ+ community. Many of our players are actively involved in supporting local LGBTQ+ organizations and we were proud to host our annual Pride Night again this year. The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.”
The NHL had not released a statement on the matter as of Tuesday night.
Flyers coach John Tortorella said he didn’t think about scratching Provorov because he didn’t do warm-up drills.
“With Provy, he’s staying true to himself and his religion,” said Tortorella, who is a freshman with the Flyers. “It has to do with his faith and his religion. There’s one thing I respect about Provy: he’s always true to himself.
Tortorella has previously made headlines for his stance on pre-game protests. In 2016, he said any of his players who didn’t stand for the national anthem would be benched for the remainder of the game. He reversed that stance after monitoring the 2020 racial injustice protests and said he would no longer penalize players who protested before a game.
“I would hope that if one of my players wanted to protest during the anthem, they would bring it to me and we would talk about it, tell me their thoughts and what they wanted to do. From there we would bring it to the team to discuss it the way it’s being discussed in our country right now,” Tortorella told The Athletic at the time.
Messages to You Can Play, a social activism campaign that has worked with the NHL since 2013, and the Philadelphia Falcons, an LGBTQ+ football program that was an invited guest of the Flyers at the game, have gone unanswered.
Pride events are part of the NHL and NHLPA’s year-round Hockey Is For All initiative.
“For more than a decade, the NHL has increased efforts to show its year-round support for the LGBTQ+ community on and off the ice,” said NHL senior executive vice president Kim Davis during Pride Month 2022.
The Flyers have been supporting the LGBTQ+ community for years. Their mascot, Gritty, is known to have taken part in the Philadelphia Pride Parade.