Shut Up and Dribble: Marc-André Fleury is the latest player to expose NHL’s hypocrisy

Minnesota Wild goaltender calls Bettman’s bluff and wins

Graphic Breea Kobernick

Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-André Fleury’s decision to honour his wife and children’s Indigenous heritage by wearing a goalie mask featuring Mdewakanton Dakota artist Cole Redhorse Taylor’s art was one beloved by the entire hockey world… except its largest governing body.

After the whole Pride jersey debacle last season, the NHL decided that it would abandon all jerseys for themed nights. Not only that, but they threatened to fine any player who took part in advocacy or activism on the ice by their own volition. It is disappointing to see the NHL so content with falling in line and staying quiet, when it could be doing much more to actually give into the “Hockey is for Everyone” mantra. But the NHL is not as intimidating as it thinks.

The league showed its hand earlier this season when Travis Dermott decided to ignore its ban on Pride tape and came out on the ice with a rainbow-covered stick. The NHL repealed the ban shortly after. If Dermott—a player with just 56 career points in 289 career games played—can expose the NHL’s bluff, then surely many other players could, too. So when Fleury—a 20-year veteran who is third all-time in wins for a goaltender—decides to take action for his family, the NHL’s empty threats would not even make him think twice.

The league did its darndest to nix Fleury’s attempt to support the Indigenous community. They threatened to fine him individually, and even the Minnesota Wild when Fleury declared that he would wear the mask anyway. Lo and behold, Fleury wore the mask during warmups for the Wild’s Native American Heritage Night on Nov. 24, and neither him nor his team has faced any punishment as of yet. Even further, Fleury auctioned the mask, and the highest bid is up over $35,000.

Meanwhile, the hockey world has commended Fleury for his beautiful gesture. It not only honours his wife and children, but so many others that share their heritage. It begs the question: what was the NHL worried about? Those supporting Fleury’s decision vastly outweigh those—if any—who don’t.

Not only does the NHL pander to a minority of bigots by trying to prevent its players from partaking in inclusive and welcoming initiatives, but it is too afraid of the slightest conflict to actually enforce these new policies. The NHL has primed its followers to expect disappointment, yet still finds a way to leave hockey enthusiasts up in arms over its decision-making.

The NHL still allows the Chicago Blackhawks to use their appropriated logo in 2023, and there are possible sexual predators under contract in the league, seeing that the findings of the investigation into the 2018 Team Canada scandal still have not been released. All this doesn’t seem to faze the NHL.

It is shameful that NHL authorities only decided to put their foot down when one of the most universally beloved hockey players wanted to make a loving, harmless, welcoming gesture. Many players, coaches and especially fans have understandably lost faith in the NHL’s vision. The league needs to realize that its followers will not keep putting up with its antics as people are running out of patience.