Johnston: Why Travis Dermott decided to challenge the NHL’s Pride bar ban, and why he dropped it for now

When Travis Dermott takes the ice in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, he plans to do so without the Pride tape that thrust the Arizona Coyotes defenseman into the middle of one of the NHL’s most controversial topics over the weekend.

“I think one game probably ruffled enough feathers and got enough attention,” Dermott said. The athlete on Monday night.

But this is not a case of silencing or deterring the 26-year-old.

not exactly.

About 48 hours after he skated in defiance of the NHL’s new rule prohibiting players from displaying “issue messages” on their gear by wrapping Pride tape around the shaft of his Warrior stick on Saturday afternoon, Dermott had not been contacted directly by anyone. League officials.

However, given the opportunity to gauge the massive amount of coverage and attention his act as an LGBTQ+ ally has received and with some time to reflect on how he put members of the Coyotes organization in an awkward position, he believes his point has been effectively made. .

And there are still other ways for him to continue achieving this.

“The war is not over yet. Absolutely not, by no means,” said Dermot. “You don’t want to completely stand back and talk when something like this happens, but you have to find the right game plan to attack it.

“Where you support your organization and not make them look bad, and you don’t want to step on the league’s toes and really start a fight with them, but still tell them I think these things are important.”

Dermott did not consult with management, the coaching staff or any of his peers before he wrapped rainbow-colored tape around the shaft of his stick shortly before a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at Mollet Arena.

It’s a practice he’s followed regularly since his days in the AHL, and the only reason it took him until the fifth game of Arizona’s season to use the tape again is because he was waiting for a new shipment after misplacing his previous batch over the offseason. Moving from Vancouver.

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Dermott was aware of the new NHL regulations, but felt it was important to continue showing support for a cause and community near and dear to his heart.

“None of the players saw me put it on my stick,” Dermott said. “It was just kind of: ‘Okay, I’m doing this, we’re going to deal with the consequences and move on, and hopefully I can have a positive impact on some people who need that positive impact.’”

Although it’s not surprising that Dermot would put himself out there in the name of supporting the LGBTQ+ community given his long history of doing so – “I had someone close to me who was in that community who wasn’t completely comfortable coming out, and it still hasn’t actually happened,” he said. , which makes it even more apparent that he did so at a time when he is fighting to re-establish himself in the league.

Dermott was limited to just 11 games with the Canucks last season due to ongoing concussion issues and is now playing under a two-way contract that would pay him at a reduced rate if the Coyotes opt to send him to AHL Tucson.

In his skates, it would have been much easier to do nothing given the current climate at NHL head office.

So why did he instead become the first player to challenge the rule that caused such consternation in dressing rooms across the continent?

“It’s easy to forget it’s a fight if it’s not in front of you,” Dermott said. “If you don’t see it every day, if it’s swept under the rug, if it’s hidden from the naked eye, it’s easy to forget that there is a group of people who don’t feel they belong because the majority of people feel like they belong.

“Once we stop thinking about that, I think that’s when it gets dangerous.”

Dermott openly admits he felt a bit nervous following Saturday’s game. He never imagined the reaction would be as large and widespread as it was. That began to dissipate when it became clear that the Wolves were willing to side with him.

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“The response I’ve had is complete support from my team,” Dermott said.

He noted that he apologized to the equipment staff for using the Pride Bar without telling them.

“They’re the ones who are supposed to make sure all of our equipment is up to specifications and legal and all that stuff,” he said. “I felt a little bit like I betrayed these guys. …But I think at the same time they’re very good at understanding and knowing that I wasn’t abusing them.

The challenge now is to find ways to continue supporting Pride initiatives against the backdrop of new NHL rules.

The Coyotes are scheduled to host Pride Night on Friday — the first team to do so since the league clarified its regulations in an Oct. 9 memo distributed to teams — and Dermott is still working through his own plans to mark the occasion.

“My Instagram will probably become more active from now on,” he said. “I’m going to actively work on finding ways now where I’m not completely silent and … not pissing off the league and (complying) with their rules.

“But, yeah, I’m still here. The fight’s not over yet. We’ll keep talking about this. And if the league doesn’t want to be on league time we’ll find other ways.”

Like many of his peers, Dermott was emotional when he found out the NHL was banning offensive messages this season. The decision came after a Board of Governors meeting in June after a handful of players made headlines last season by refusing to join their teammates and wearing Pride jackets during warm-ups.

“You can see the league is taking away our voice,” Dermott said. “We can’t talk. We don’t have any of that expression anymore. I feel like that’s a valid way of thinking, and it’s easy to see it that way. A lot of people do that, and I’m sure I will continue to do that.”

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“It’s a fine line where the league wants to look good and the league wants to support all of those things, but you also don’t want all the negativity that can come from someone who doesn’t support it and you don’t want that.” Force people who don’t support something to support something, and I completely understand that point of view.

“I can take a step back and see that there is no problem. But at the same time, you would like players to still be able to express themselves if they wish. I would have loved to still have that.

Dermot speaks passionately about the people he has met in the LGBTQ+ community since he first publicly supported the cause. Through heart-to-heart conversations, he learns that sometimes it’s the more outgoing personalities in the room that particularly benefit from seeing an NHL player “with a strip of tape on his stick.”

“I don’t hear about a lot of people spending real time with the LGBTQ community and feeling distanced from them,” Dermott said. “You feel more comfortable with things like this and know that they are people too – completely normal people who have the majority of the exact same life as you, so why should we treat them differently just because of who they are” interested or not interested?

“It sounds crazy to me.”

And it seems to many others. Dermot was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that followed his decision on Saturday. He estimates the tone of those messages was “99.99 percent positive.”

“As athletes, we have a great platform to spread love, and I think if we’re not spreading that love, what the hell are we doing?”

(Photo: Zach Bondurant/Getty Images)

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