In becoming the first player to openly flout the NHL’s rule against the use of rainbow colored Pride Tape, Arizona Coyotes defender Travis Dermott knew he was risking his livelihood to take a stand.
Dermott, who’s on a one-year, two-way contract – meaning he could get sent to the minor leagues at any time – decided to do it anyway.
Without knowing the consequences (the NHL says the matter ‘will be handled in due course’), Dermott took to the ice anyway with a strip of the rainbow-colored tape on his hockey stick.
For Dermott, it seems that the question was less if he would do it, but when.
‘You don’t really want to go against rules that are put in place by your employer, but there’s some people who took some positive things from it,’ Dermott told Craig Morgan of GOPHNX. ‘That’s kind of what I’m looking to impact.
Travis Dermott of the Arizona Coyotes opened up on his choice to ignore an NHL rule
Dermott used Pride Tape – which has been banned this year – on his stick in a game Saturday
In doing so, Dermott became the first player to defy a league rule banning the tape’s use
‘You want to have everyone feel included and that’s something that I have felt passionate about for a long time in my career. It’s not like I just just jumped on this train.
‘It’s something that I’ve felt has been lacking in the hockey community for a while. I feel like we need supporters of a movement like this; to have everyone feel included and really to beat home the idea that hockey is for everyone.’
The tape was banned earlier this month in the latest example of the NHL hoping to completely eliminate visible support of the LGBTQ+ community on the ice.
Earlier this year, the league announced a total and complete ban on so-called ‘Special Initiative’ warm-up jerseys. Not only does that include Pride Night jerseys, but it also eliminates warmups for Military Appreciation Night and Hockey Fights Cancer Night among others.
Both the decision banning the jerseys and the tape were scorned by many of the league’s top players, irate that the choice of just seven players – representing just 0.6 percent of all people that touched the ice last season – was responsible for all of this.
Dermott knew what he was doing. He knew the risks involved in making this decision, but he felt compelled to do so anyway. Now, he might be the first in a long line of players willing to stand in defiance of the league’s rule.
‘I won’t lie,’ said Dermott, who is playing on a one-year, two-way contract. ‘From the outside, it’s easy to see that I’m putting my career on the line for something.
‘I definitely went through some emotional ups and downs that night, not regretting anything by any means, but I’d love to have maybe done a couple of steps a little different by making sure that everyone was aware of what was going on before I did it.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman banned the tape and warm-up jerseys earlier this year
Top players in the league, like Morgan Reilly (L) and Brad Marchand (R) spoke against the bans
‘I don’t want to put my teammates or my coaches or my GMs or the equipment managers in any kind of bad light when it’s their job to kind of look out for something like this happening.
‘It was definitely something that I did just by myself and was prepared to kind of deal with whatever repercussions the league decides to push towards that. I’m not going to back off and say that this battle is won, but we’re going to find better ways to do it.’
Dermott has long shown support for LGBTQ+ inclusion and the recent moves by the league have upset him at times.
‘I’d be lying if I said I haven’t shed tears about this on multiple occasions,’ he said. ‘So yeah, it’s something I’m definitely very passionate about.
‘I’ve met a lot of people that from the outside, it looks like they have everything going right in their life and they have a smile on their face every time they talk to you.
‘But sometimes when we get closer to people and get comfortable enough for them to open up to you, you can see that there’s some pretty dark stuff happening to some good people. It doesn’t take too many times encountering something like that for it to really change someone.
‘I’ve been blessed to have some of those opportunities put in front of me to really change my view of what being a good person means; what being a good father and a good example and role model means going forward.
‘You really see how people are hurting and it’s because of a system that maybe no one’s intentionally trying to be malicious about, but until you’ve really had that first-person experience seeing people hurting from it right in front of you, it’s tough to kind of take steps.’
Dermott has gotten league-wide support including from league executive Brian Burke – one of the founders of the ‘You Can Play’ project, which aims to tackle homophobia in sports
The Coyotes organization is also supporting Dermott (CEO Xavier Gutierrez, L, Shane Doan, R)
Dermott says that he’s received support from not just family and friends, but players, media members and other prominent LGBTQ+ supporters in hockey – like longtime executive Brian Burke, who launched the ‘You Can Play’ project to combat homophobia in sports.
The Coyotes have also strongly supported Dermott’s decision.
‘We as an organization, first and foremost, respect and support our players’ rights to express themselves as individuals. Second, I want to be very clear that as an organization, we remain steadfast in our support of the LGBTQ+ community,’ Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said.
‘We will continue with our efforts as an organization to not only support, but to celebrate that community in addition to all the other communities that we have been very focused on embracing, welcoming, extending our hands to and opening our doors.
‘The players are very well aware of the rules by which they need to abide, and it is their decision, but we are very supportive of them as individuals doing so. You will see us continue to take organization-wide efforts to express our support for this community within the boundaries set forth by the NHL.’
Dermott: ‘You want to be the guy that’s having the impact on kids like NHL players had on you.’
Dermott says he feels empowered to try and bring the rest of the Coyotes organization into the fold.
‘It’s not like I’m shutting up and going away,’ he said. ‘I know more questions are going to be coming. We’re just going to be as prepared as we can be to just spread love. That’s the thing. It’s gay pride that we’re talking about, but it could be men’s health. It could be any war. It’s just wanting world peace. Everyone’s got to love each other a little bit more.
‘Like my parents said growing up, “How awesome would it be to be the guy that people look up to?” That’s what really hit home when I was a kid, especially from my mom.
‘You want to grow up and be that guy. You want to be the guy that’s having the impact on kids like NHL players had on you. If they had been racist or bigoted, that’s going to have an effect on you.
‘With how many eyes are on us, especially with the young kids coming up in the new generation, you want to put as much positive love into their brain as you can. You want them to see that it’s not just being taught or coming from maybe their parents at home. They need to see it in the public eye for it to really make an effect.’