Most NHL Fans Support Pride Nights

The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks were among the NHL teams that scrapped plans to wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys this season
April 19, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

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The NHL is still looking for a resolution to its Pride Night issue, but, for now, fans have made one thing clear to the league: They support it and its teams’ hosting LGBTQ+-themed games, according to a new Morning Consult survey. 

During the 2022-2023 regular season, players like the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov, San Jose Sharks’ James Reimer and Florida Panthers’ Eric and Marc Staal boycotted wearing their respective teams’ special warmup jerseys on Pride Night, a themed game aimed at raising the visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. The players each cited their religious beliefs in refusing to participate. NHL franchises like the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks also reversed plans to have players wear Pride-themed warmup sweaters. 

Still, the survey found that a clear majority (57%) of self-identified NHL fans in the United States said they “strongly support” or “somewhat support” leagues’ holding LGBTQ+ Pride events. Fans do not think players should be required to participate, however. 

Clear Majority of NHL Fans Support LGBTQ+ Theme Nights

Respondents who said they support or oppose leagues’ holding LGBTQ+ Pride events for players and fans to participate in
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Survey conducted April 10-12, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,202 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Fans say ‘yes’ to Pride Nights

  • Almost half of U.S. adults (47%) said they support leagues’ hosting Pride Nights. Three in 5 millennials (60%) and 57% of Gen Zers said the same. 
  • Baby boomers were roughly split, though 28% of the group said they “strongly oppose” Pride Nights, the largest share of any cohort. 
  • In a separate survey question, about 1 in 4 sports fans (27%) and U.S. adults (25%) said sports teams should host more nights focused on inclusivity, up 3 percentage points each from a 2022 survey.

NHL’s Pride Night dilemma 

This season marked the first time the NHL encountered major issues around some teams’ annual Pride Nights, argued Commissioner Gary Bettman, who said last month that the league will “evaluate” the theme nights this offseason. (The NHL did not respond to a request for comment on this story.)

About 3 in 5 NHL fans (61%) said they support keeping Pride Nights but it should be up to players whether they participate, per the survey. The data also suggests that many fans respect players willing to take a stand on the issue: 39% said they would have a “much better” or “somewhat better” opinion of a player who decided not to participate in a Pride-themed game, compared with 19% who said they would have a worse opinion of the athlete and 31% who said it would not change their opinion.

Some critics have already rebuked the NHL’s response to date. Other columnists, like the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, wrote the league “put itself square in the vortex of a culture war” and needs to address the situation because the controversy won’t magically disappear before next season.

The April 10-12, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,202 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

A headshot photograph of Mark J. Burns
Mark J. Burns
Sports Analyst

Mark J. Burns previously worked at Morning Consult as a sports analyst.

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