Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov skipped pre-game practice Tuesday night because he refused to wear the team’s LGBTQ+ Pride Night warm-up jersey, citing his religious beliefs.
Provorov, 26, told reporters after the Flyers’ 5-2 home win over the Anaheim Ducks that it was his choice “to stay true to myself and my religion,” which he identified as Russian Orthodox.
“I respect everyone. I respect everyone’s choices,” he said.
Prior to the game, the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow ribbon, both of which are auctioned off by Flyers Charities, with proceeds going to their efforts to develop the game in various communities.
Provorov was the only Flyers player not to have a jersey or stick auctioned off after the game.
The Flyers released a statement ahead of Provorov’s postgame comments:
“The Philadelphia Flyers organization is committed to inclusivity and proud to support the LGBTQ+ community. Many of our players are active in supporting local LGBTQ+ organizations, and we were proud to once again host our annual Pride Night this year. The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.”
The NHL had not issued a press release on this subject Tuesday evening.
Flyers coach John Tortorella said he wasn’t considering scratching Provorov for not warming up.
“With Provy, he’s true to himself and his religion,” the Flyers first-year coach said. “It has to do with his belief and his religion. That’s one thing I respect about Provy: he’s always true to himself. That’s where we’re at with that.”
Tortorella has previously made headlines over his stance on the pre-game protests. In 2016, he declared that all of his players who did not show up for the national anthem would be benched for the rest of the game. He reversed that stance after watching protests against racial injustice in 2020, saying he would no longer punish players who protested before a game.
“I hope that if any 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, much like 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 in partnership with the NHL since 2013, and the Philadelphia Falcons, an LGBTQ+ soccer program invited by the Flyers to the game, were not returned.
Pride events are part of the NHL and NHLPA’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” initiative that runs year-round.
“For more than a decade, the NHL has stepped up its efforts to show its year-round support on and off the ice for the LGBTQ+ community,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President Kim Davis during the month of pride in 2022.
The Flyers have supported the LGBTQ+ community for years. Their mascot, Gritty, took part in the Philadelphia Pride Parade.