McDavid did speak on Tuesday. “I’ve expressed disappointment in not being able to wear the various jerseys, the tapes, whatever. Whether it’s the Pride Tape or pink tape, or anything, it’s always something I’ve enjoyed. In terms of a league standpoint, is it something I’d like to see put back in place someday? Certainly. But that’s not the way it is right now.”
It was a muted criticism.
Maybe the harshest statement came from San Jose Sharks’ forward Anthony Duclair, who told San Jose Hockey Now‘s Sheng Peng:
“For me, you’re also banning Black History Month,” he was quoted. “I think we’re taking a step backwards, to be honest.”
But, for the most part, we’re not hearing a large backlash from within the league’s membership. I don’t believe it’s because players don’t care. It has a lot more to do with the fact that speaking out against a league decision somehow goes against the team that signs your cheque.
The fact is, the facelessness of the NHL has gotten worse over time. Players are even less accessible than they were 10, even 20 years ago. And this is understandable. Social media is prevalent. One soundbite, one quote taken out of context, can go viral. Players and teams are more worried than ever about the wrong thing being said. And it’s led to a hockey dressing-room culture that’s, well, pretty boring.
When I started covering hockey in the 1990s, training camp was a free-for-all. We could roam around the various areas and have plenty of chances to have one-on-one talks with players. We got to know them. We knew about their families, their favourite things to do away from the ice, the things that made them tick.