‘Why would I bench him?’: Flyers coach Tortorella defends Provorov Pride boycott

‘Why would I bench him?’: Flyers coach Tortorella defends Provorov Pride boycott

Flyers coach John Tortorella defended Russian defenseman Ivan Provorov’s decision to cite religious beliefs as his reason for boycotting the team’s pregame Pride celebration.

“Provy did nothing wrong,” Tortorella said Thursday. “Just because you don’t agree with his decision doesn’t mean he did something wrong.”

Before Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, Provorov, 26, did not participate in warmups, during which the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow ribbon.

Provorov is Russian Orthodox and said after the match that he respected “everyone’s choices.”

“My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say,” he said, declining to answer follow-up questions.

Tortorella said he had “very healthy” conversations with Provorov, general manager Chuck Fletcher and select players days before the game. Provorov’s decision did not come as a surprise to the organization.

The Flyers’ first-year coach also said he never considered benching Provorov.

“Why would I put him on the bench? Because of a decision he’s making about his beliefs and his religion?” Tortella said. “It turned out to be a great night for Pride night.”

LOOK The Russian Orthodox faith, the reason for Provorov’s decision:

Philadelphia Flyers player cites religion as reason for Gay Pride jersey boycott

Philadelphia Flyers alternate captain Ivan Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox faith as the reason he refused to wear a Pride-themed jersey during pregame warmups.

The Flyers, led by players James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton, have been staunch supporters of the LGBTQ community and launched a program in support of LGBTQ youth in the greater Philadelphia area. The Flyers also hosted a pregame skate for local LGBTQ youth, and Laughton and van Riemsdyk met with about 50 people from the community after the game.

“I have nothing against anybody,” Laughton said Tuesday. “It’s nothing like that. It was an amazing night and I’m so happy to have gotten a win on a night like this.”

Tortorella rejected criticism that Provorov’s actions “embarrassed the organization,” saying, “I don’t see it that way.”

Kevin Hayes of the Philadelphia Flyers, number 13, in the team's Pride-themed jersey, looks on.
Flyers forward Kevin Hayes wears the team’s Pride-themed jersey during pregame warmups Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Tortorella has coached five NHL teams and was compared to his own controversy in 2016 in Columbus, when he threatened to bench any player who protested or took a knee during the national anthem. His comments came in the wake of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit or kneel during the anthem because he said the country “oppresses blacks and people of color.” .

Tortorella has since said, and reiterated Thursday, that he was wrong.

“I learned a lot through that experience,” Tortorella said. “My feelings towards any moment of protest to the flag during the anthem disgust me, to this day. They disgust me. It should not be done. Those are my feelings. I cannot convey those feelings to another person. So I was wrong to say that back then. I didn’t realize I was.

“But I’ve been through it all, who am I to convey my feelings to someone else. Same situation here.”

The Russian Orthodox Church, like other major Eastern Orthodox branches, does not perform or recognize same-sex marriages. Its leader, Patriarch Kirill, has supported moves by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government to implement anti-LGBTQ legislation.

‘You Can Play’ Problem Statement

The NHL also promotes the You Can Play project, whose goal is to ensure equality, respect, and safety for all athletes, regardless of their sexual orientation. The NHL has never had an active openly gay player. You Can Play co-founder Brian Kitts said in a statement that “religion and supporting fans and teammates are not mutually exclusive.”

The NHL said that clubs “decide who to celebrate, when and how” and that players “are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”

Tortorella said Provorov knew he was “going to get hit back.”

“Provy is not beating a drum against Pride night,” he said. “He felt strongly about his beliefs and he stuck with it.”

The Flyers have just 19 wins, but have won four of five going into Thursday’s game against Chicago and are 8-2 since an overtime win on Dec. 29 in San Jose.

Tortorella insisted that the lingering effects of the Gay Pride night would not split the locker room.

“Not for a second,” Tortorella said. “The meeting at the end of the game, the 15, 20 minutes that we spent together was very healthy. Very good process in a very important situation. For me, it unites the team that is going through something like this. I am not worried about speculation that a team separates. It’s not a possibility.”

Agent Explosions Movement

Bayne Pettinger, a Toronto-based NHLPA-certified player agent who came out as gay in 2020, said he was disappointed by Provorov’s decision to use his platform for “essentially a protest” that sends a message to hockey fans. and their teammates who participated. in the warm up.

“[It] It just says, ‘Hey, it’s about me,'” Pettinger told CBC’s all points west. “I found it selfish and downright disrespectful towards the gay community.”

Pettinger says the NHL has made great strides when it comes to making the sport more inclusive: the league hockey is for everyone The initiative encourages teams to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, but Provorov’s actions signal something different.

“I get asked all the time, ‘When is a player going to come out of the NHL?’ And you see something like last night: that’s not a safe environment to do that yet,” he said.

“We still have some steps needed to create a safe environment for a player because they will have that spotlight on them.”

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