Customers sticking with Pride Tape, says company, with sales up despite NHL ban | CBC News

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The makers of a multicoloured sports tape used on hockey sticks and other equipment say a ban by the National Hockey League has actually been good for business.

Pride Tape co-creator Kris Wells told CBC News this week he’s baffled by the NHL’s ban on themed gear, including rainbow tape and camouflage tape, given how many players, including Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid support initiatives like Pride Nights.

“It’s all the more perplexing that  the hockey executives and leadership would not be supporting the players because 95 per cent of the players support these initiatives without any problem,” said Wells.

The NHL announced this week players aren’t allowed to use the tape, which has been used around the league since 2016 as a visual symbol of support of the LGBTQ community, in games, warm-ups or even practices.

The tape ban follows the league’s decision in June to abandon Pride sweaters and other themed jerseys. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said this week that with some players refusing to wear Pride jerseys, “the issue of who wanted to wear a particular uniform on a particular night overshadowed everything that our clubs were doing.”

The fallout for the league has been overwhelmingly negative. Players, coaches, executives and others at all levels of hockey have been vocal in their support of Pride Tape and what it stands for.

A man in a blue sweater holds a hockey stick wrapped in rainbow-coloured tape.
Pride Tape co-creator Kris Wells says the fallout from the NHL ban has boosted sales because people want to show their support for the product and its goals. (CBC)

But the fallout for the Edmonton-based Pride Tape, says Wells, has been positive.

“Like controversy often does, it increases the tension and and certainly sales of Pride Tape, including from National Hockey League teams who ordered more tape and NHL players themselves who directly ordered the tape,” he said.

“And I would not be surprised to see players ignore the ban and use it themselves in games, and perhaps dare the NHL to fine them. We certainly heard from many fans who said they would all chip in to pay any fine that a player might receive because this is so important to them.”

Kurt Weaver, the chief operating officer of a group that advocates for equality and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in all sports, particularly hockey, says the ban doesn’t give players a choice.

“You’re taking the choice from them to be able to show their support and show their pride.… Certainly removing any visual representation from the important part of the game, which is the on-ice product, makes our job just a little bit more difficult,” said Weaver.

“Diversity in sport is a solid business decision as well as the right thing to do.… So we we push that with our partners, we push that in the community. We want to make sure this is a healthy decision for everyone to do and so far we’ve seen the results.”

A man in a baseball cap holds out the front of his T-shirt, reads Love Unites in multi-coloured letters.
Kurt Weaver of You Can Play says the NHL should give players the choice to use the tape. (You Can Play)

Wells said he and the other makers of Pride Tape are certainly seeing results, in sales and in public awareness.

“Unfortunately we’re we’re in a world right now where there are a lot of attacks and and hate crimes and protests against the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” Wells said. “This is really the time where we need our allies not to back down when facing controversy or protest, but to double down and show their support.”

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