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Maritimers weigh in on controversy surrounding NHL Pride nights

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For several years now, Pride nights have been held annually by National Hockey League teams to show support for the LGBTQ2S+ community.

However, several high-profile incidents this season are shining a spotlight on the efforts designed to make hockey more inclusive, inviting and safe.

It's a controversy that fired up again Thursday night when the Florida Panthers had their pre-game warmups wearing Pride jerseys before hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Brothers Eric and Marc Staal of the Panthers refused to wear the rainbow jerseys.

In a statement, the brothers cited their Christian beliefs while adding that they "carry no judgment on how people choose to live their lives, and believe all people should be welcome in the game of hockey."

In January, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in his team's Pride night, saying it would be contrary to his Russian Orthodox religion.

Last weekend, San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer opted out as well.

Like the Staals, Reimer issued a statement citing his Christian faith, while adding the LGBTQ2S+ community - like all others - should be welcomed in all aspects of the game.

Peter Steele of Whitney Pier, N.S., is a former Pride Cape Breton chair.

He feels the explanations offered by those who have opted out contradict themselves.

"That's not welcoming everybody. That's not being inclusive whatsoever," Steele said. "If you're welcoming anybody from the two-spirited LGBTQ+ community into the things that you do, and you turn around and you basically insult them in this manner, I have a problem with your values."

Chuck Dauphinee is a founder of the Halifax Mussels LGBTQ2S+ hockey group and was on Hockey Nova Scotia's diversity and inclusion task force.

He says the divide shows the game still has trouble proving it's for everyone.

"It makes a big impression on young kids," Dauphinee said. "It makes me feel that we need more inclusion at the rinks and we need the NHL to step up, and the players to stand up.”

The Chicago Blackhawks were the latest team to cancel their Pride night, citing concerns for players with connections to Russia when it comes to laws in their home country.

The New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild also called off their events.

Nashville Predators’ prospect Luke Prokop, who is openly gay, tweeted that he "shares the disappointment in what feels like a step back for inclusion in the NHL."

In the league’s hundred-plus year history, no known active player has come out.

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