One night after getting shelled in Boston, the Flyers bounced back with a 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. It marked the team’s eighth win in the last 10 games with the holiday break. All-Star Kevin Hayes had a hat trick. All of those things should be the story. They aren’t.
Instead, the story is Ivan Provorov, who was absent from warm-ups on Tuesday only to appear on the game roster magically just minutes before puck drop. The reason wasn’t an injury or an illness.
The Flyers were celebrating Pride Night on Tuesday night, and the team was wearing special team-issue Pride jerseys for the warmup. As the game came to a close, the team released a statement on their stance for LGBTQ+ rights.
The Philadelphia Flyers organization is committed to inclusivity and is proud to support of local LGBTQ+ organizations, and we were proud to host our annual Pride Night again this year. The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.”
Moments later, head coach John Tortorella addressed the media and commented on Provorov’s absence in warmups.
“The organization sent out a release regarding the organization, the beliefs that we have and how we feel about it on, really, a great night. With Provy, he’s being true to himself and to his religion,” Tortorella said. “This has to do with his belief and his religion. It’s one thing I respect about Provy. He’s always true to himself.”
Tortorella added that there was no thought to scratching him.
“We talked as a team here with Provy, and that’s where we’re at,” Tortorella said.
Provorov also addressed the media in the locker room briefly.
“I respect everybody. I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my beliefs,” Provorov said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
Provorov, who added that his religion is Russian Orthodox, declined any further comment.
At a time when the team is starting to show signs of growth and signs of being a cohesive locker room, this creates the opposite effect.
A player chose not to participate in a warm-up wearing a jersey that celebrated the LGBTQ+ community, then got to participate in the game, and played a game-high 22:45, after expressing his beliefs against said community. It presents horrible optics for the Flyers organization, which has had far too many missteps in the last several years.
At the same time that Provorov was addressing the media, Scott Laughton and James van Riemsdyk were spending time postgame with about 50 members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It was an amazing night, an amazing initiative, and something that’s been close to me for a long time. It’s a great, great night that brings a lot of awareness and everything like that. I know they spoke on it.
“I think we’ve had those conversations and I think they’re ongoing. I think it’s come a long way, throughout the years I’ve been here, since they started You Can Play. We had a great night tonight. It was awesome seeing all those people, having everything out there and seeing the signs in warmups. I think that’s what you touch on and see how many people you can affect through this, so it’s awesome.”
For the efforts of players like Laughton and van Riemsdyk, who met with members of the community and showed their support by helping organize the night, it is a contradictory look. It shows just how much work needs to be done. Laughton said that’s part of the conversations.
“He’s already touched on why he chose that. I’m sure conversations will happen down the road,” Laughton said. “I don’t hold anything against anyone. It’s nothing like that. It was an awesome night and I’m very happy we got a win on a night like this and can put a lot of smiles on faces.”
Laughton’s efforts may very well have puts many smiles on the faces of all, especially the LGBTQ+ community being celebrated. But the Flyers’ reputation with the community is certainly under more scrutiny as a result of what took place prior to Tuesday’s game.