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Blackhawks Beat: Silence from Blackhawks leadership leaves fans hurting, frustrated after Pride Night jersey decision
The Chicago Blackhawks held their annual Pride Night Celebration at the United Center on Sunday night. There was a ‘Glamboni’, performances by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, an intermission exhibition from the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, and more rainbows than you can count.
However, the players were not wearing their Pride jerseys in warm-ups, as they have in years past. Blackhawks fans, both in and out of the LGBTQIA+ community were upset, hurt, and confused. Sources close to the team told reporters the decision was made based on concerns over the safety of Russian players and their families, but our colleagues at The Athletic put in a call to the NHL’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who said, “We have no information that would suggest there is any material threat that would exist (in Russia or otherwise) related to a Russian player participating in a club’s Pride activities.” It should also be noted that Russian hockey players have worn pride jerseys both before and after the Blackhawks’ decision, with no retribution.
All of this leads to confusion, frustration, and mistrust, for everyone.
I’m not going to pretend that I have a full understanding of Russian politics. Any time there is a dictator in charge, things can change quickly and without warning, so despite Daly’s comment, I believe there are Russian players who have legitimate concerns about their and their families’ safety. I also acknowledge that I will never fully understand the daily struggle the LGBTQIA+ community goes through, though I do my best to listen, learn, grow, sympathize, and support, even though I will often fall short (as I admittedly did the other night when the news broke), and while Russian players deserve respect for their concerns over what’s happening in their country, there are LGBTQIA+ people living in America, dealing with their rights being stripped away on a daily basis. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are currently 450 bills targeting the LGBTQ community in the United States.
Let that sink in.
What frustrates me most, aside from seeing friends and fans feeling hurt by the decision, is the Blackhawks leadership group’s silence on this topic. CEO Danny Wirtz and President Jaime Faulkner have used the term “transparency” over and over again. Right now, the fans need, and deserve, transparency.
The Blackhawks have (another) crisis on their hands. Now is not the time for the leadership to go silent. Fans deserve an explanation. The media deserves the chance to ask questions and get answers. Instead, Luke Richardson, Connor Murphy and Seth Jones are taxed with facing the media with no support behind them. They’re in a no-win situation.
Overall, I had been pleased with how Wirtz and Faulkner have handled things since they took the reigns, but they’ve both dropped the ball, here. It’s never too late to step up and do the right thing and show some accountability, but it feels like they’re just going to let the news cycle pass instead, which is a shame. It feels like for every step forward the organization makes, they take several steps back.
The Week Ahead
Tuesday, March 28 vs Dallas Stars
7:30 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
Every time the Blackhawks play the Stars, I write about Jason Robertson, and I’m not going to stop now. He is one of the game’s brightest Stars, and the league has completely dropped the ball on promoting him. The Stars are a good team, in a large market, with some very marketable players. In his 73 games this season, Robertson has 41 goals and 50 assists and is currently tied for ninth in the NHL in scoring. At 23 years old, he’s only going to get better.
Meanwhile, the Stars, who have led the Central Division for the bulk of the season, have fallen to third. This sounds a lot worse than it is, as first-place Minnesota only has one more point than the Stars. The race for the central title should be fun to watch, but expect a fully-motivated Stars team at the United Center Tuesday night.
Thursday, March 30 vs St. Louis Blues
7:30 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
The Blues are right in the middle of hockey hell. Not bad enough to land a great draft pick, not good enough to make the playoffs. While they have their young stars, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, locked up long-term, there is also a significant portion of their cap space tied up in older defensemen. Could the Blues be in line for a rebuild? They probably should, but probably won’t. I’d imaging if you’re reading this you wouldn’t mind seeing the Blues sink into obscurity for the next decade, right?
Saturday, April 1 vs New Jersey Devils
7:00 pm on ESPN2 & WGN Radio
The Devils are really damn good. They’re young. They’re fast. They’re going to be young and fast for a long-time. If you’re looking for hope for the rebuild, the Devils could be a team to look to. I’m excited about getting to see them live. I’m also excited to see how they fare in the playoffs. The East is loaded and experienced, so it might be a couple more years before the Devils can take down the big dogs, but we’ll see. I’m rooting for them.
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