Hockey is one of the most exciting games on Earth. Hockey culture, however, is notoriously boring. Rarely does anyone in the sport publicly stray from the herd to say or do something interesting. Journalists sometimes lament this fact, wishing that people in the game would speak more freely and show more personality.
Yet, anyone who says or does anything unexpected risks becoming the subject of widespread criticism. Something as simple as an unconventional goal celebration is enough to get a player in trouble. Journalists are often part of the problem, as they opine back and forth on any little irregularity because they’re so starved for fresh content.
This makes what Philadelphia Flyers Defenseman Ivan Provorov did on Tuesday night all the more remarkable. It was Pride Night at the Flyers game, an event held in conjunction with the National Hockey League’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative, and he declined to participate in the pregame skate because he didn’t want to wear a Pride jersey.
Citing his religion (he is Russian Orthodox), he explained, “I respect everyone. I respect everybody’s choice. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.” These are the words of a man who supports a pluralistic, free society, in which respect does not require endorsement.
What an opportunity for hockey journalists to report on something extraordinary—a hockey player taking a stand based on his religious convictions! Instead, various reporters climbed onto their social media soapboxes and proclaimed their inability to respect anyone who disagrees with woke dogmas.
“Provorov obviously does not respect ‘everyone’. If he did respect everyone, he would have taken part in the warm-up and worn the Pride Night jersey. Don’t hide behind religion,” tweeted Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
His colleague, Daniel Nugent-Bowman, similarly opined, “That was a terrible look for Ivan Provorov and the Flyers organization tonight. Hiding behind religion to not be respectful and inclusive is absurd.”
The worst of the bunch might have been Tyler Yaremchuk, who wrote, “I’m sorry but if you use ‘religious issues’ to hate gay people, you’re just homophobic. Lame reason.”
Besides a telling disrespect for Provorov’s religious convictions—the progressive god tolerates no heresy—these statements reveal the totalitarian bent of the woke mind and how it is infecting hockey culture, somehow making it worse.
These reporters appear to believe that respecting people necessitates making political statements on their behalf. An attitude of live and let live is not enough. There are officially acceptable views, and dissent is a moral crime that must be suppressed.
This is highlighted by Gord Miller’s comments. He acknowledged that Provorov “had the right to refuse to participate,” but added that “the Flyers should have responded by not allowing him to play in the game.”
Certainly, as Provorov’s employer, the Flyers could have kept him out of the game if they wanted to. “Freedom of expression doesn’t give you freedom from the consequences of your words and actions,” Miller concluded.
“Consequences” is a word that cancelers like to use. What should the consequences be for having a different point of view and quietly declining to support a cause one does not believe in? In words that could have been spoken by Don Cherry, one commentator said Provorov should “go back to a place where he feels more comfortable,” namely, Russia!—a perfect alloy of hockey culture old and new.
In Canada, they say hockey is a religion. It is becoming more like a cult as wokeism spreads into the sport.
People are of course free to disagree with Provorov and criticize him, but respecting others includes acknowledging their right to follow their consciences. The desire of the woke to compel universal assent to their views reveals an intolerable willingness to violate this most sacred right.
Fortunately, Provorov’s coach, John Tortorella, and the NHL supported his decision. Tortorella said, “With Provy, he’s being true to himself and to his religion. This has to do with his belief and his religion. And it’s one thing I respect about Provy. He’s always true to himself. And so that’s where we’re at with that.”
This reflects a positive change in attitude for Tortorella, who had already backtracked on a well-known statement that he would bench a player who kneeled during the national anthem.
A statement from the NHL read in part, “players are free to decide which initiatives to support.”
Let’s hope the Flyers and the NHL hold the line on freedom of speech and conscience. Then hockey really will be for everyone.
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