Vancouver Canucks winger Andrei Kuzmenko won’t wear Pride boots: coach

At least one Canucks player won’t be wearing a themed boot when Vancouver hosts its annual Pride night on Friday.

Coach Rick Tocchet said that after discussion with his family, Russian winger Andrei Kuzmenko has decided not to wear the special uniform before the home game against the Calgary Flames.

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Vancouver Canucks wear themed boots for annual Pride night on Friday

“I won’t participate because we don’t know what transactions happen there. So I respect his decision,” Tocchet said.

Kuzmenko, 27, became a fan favorite during his first NHL season thanks to his wide smile and outgoing personality.

He has 37 goals and 31 assists in 73 games, leading the Canucks in terms of goals.

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Some of his teammates have publicly pledged to wear jerseys designed by local artist Christin Hryc. The main crest features a rainbow and flowers on the Canucks orca emblem and rainbow patches on the shoulders.

“I think everyone in this room is looking forward to that,” defense guard Quinn Hughes said Wednesday. “And I know in our organization, everyone is welcome.

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“Every time we have Pride night, I put on my jersey and celebrate that night.”

Center star Elias Pettersson said Friday that he also supports the annual event.

“I think it’s important to show that everyone is welcome here,” he said. “And I’ll be wearing the shirt tonight.”

Vancouver has a number of other initiatives scheduled for Friday, including a pre-match drag show outside Rogers Arena and in-game performances. A $20,000 donation is also being made to QMUNITY, a Vancouver nonprofit that supports LGBTQ people and their allies.

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Kuzmenko joins several NHL players who have refused to wear Pride jerseys this season, including Philadelphia Flyers defender Ivan Provorov, San Jose Sharks goalkeeper James Reimer, Florida Panthers Eric and Marc Staal, and Ilya Lyubushkin, Buffalo Sabers blue player.

NHLPA’s new CEO Marty Walsh said in Toronto on Thursday that it is a personal right for a player to wear a themed jersey.

“The LGBTQ community should not feel that NHL hockey players are turning their backs on it. Most of the players have worn this shirt,” said Walsh, who has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights throughout his political career.

He added that the league will likely have more conversations about the issue in the future.

“But I think what’s really important is that as a league and as a dressing room we integrate and we support everyone’s right to support the game,” Walsh said.

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