Ilya Lyubushkin claims Russia’s anti-gay law as the reason he won’t participate in warmups on Sabres’ Pride Night.


Moscow-born and with Russian relatives, Lyubushkin

Ilya Lyubushkin, a defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres, won’t take part in the team’s pregame warmups for Monday’s Pride Night contest against the Montreal Canadiens. The Associated Press reports that Lyubushkin has expressed reluctance to don a Pride-themed jersey because of a recent anti-gay legislation passed in Russia that limits the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Moscow was Lyubushkin’s birthplace, and he still has relatives there. During the off-season, he also travels to the nation. The Sabres still intend to limber up on Monday wearing Pride jerseys.

The Buffalo Sabres released a statement saying, “The Buffalo Sabres are proud to continue to support the LGBTQIA+ community as allies by hosting our third annual Pride Night game.” It is crucial for us to keep using our stage to advance our organization’s mission of making hockey accessible to all.

As in previous years, our teams are adamant that donning Pride jerseys and using Pride tape during warmups are two effective ways to win over fans. Despite this, we are conscious of the widespread dangers facing some players and respect their decision to take no chances.

Kyle Okposo, the captain of the Sabres, made a separate statement expressing his understanding of the challenging environment faced by Russian players like his colleague Lyubushkin.

It’s such a sensitive subject, and you’re worried about the Russians in particular, Okposo said. As a North American from the United States, I can say that I have no idea what it’s like to live and grow up in Russia. And because we don’t understand, I don’t believe we can discuss the psychology of those players. Honestly, we can’t comprehend because we haven’t been there.

The choices made by several teams and players in recent weeks regarding Pride Nights throughout the NHL have been influenced by the ties that NHL players have to Russia.

The traditional Pride Night game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks was scheduled to take place on Sunday. The squad ultimately opted not to use their Pride-themed jerseys during warm-ups for the competition. Due to the same Russian legislation that limits the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, the Blackhawks decided not to wear Pride-themed jerseys.

Sergei Bobrovsky, the Russian-born goalie for the Florida Panthers, donned a Pride jersey while warming up for the team’s event last Thursday. Eric Staal, a forward for the Panthers, and Marc Staal, a defenseman, made the decision not to wear Pride-themed jerseys that same night, citing their Christian views as their justification.

Ivan Provorov, a defenseman, cited his Russian Orthodox religious views as the justification for skipping warmups on Philadelphia Flyers Pride Night back in January. James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks did the same earlier this month, while the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers decided not to warm up in Pride jerseys despite initially intending to.