Veteran forward busted in a lie following Leafs game

Mike Armenti
March 24, 2023  (9:45)

For those who may have missed most or all of the discourse surrounding Pride Night festivities around the NHL, there have been a number of players of late who have outright refused to wear a Pride jersey and, as a result, have simply skipped the warm-up skate to avoid having to wear one. One of the more recent incidents, of course, involved former Leafs goaltender James Reimer. Reimer lost a lot of respect in the fallout of that ordeal and now it appears as though a former Stanley Cup champion and 6-time NHL All-Star is going down a similar road.

Last night, prior to the Leafs/Panthers game in Sunrise, South Florida, Eric Staal and his brother, Marc, refused to wear a Pride jersey and, naturally, skipped the warm-ups. In case it evaded you, here's the official statement from Eric and Marc.
While this may seem like a normal response and similar to the one given by James Reimer after he refused to don a Pride jersey or partake in Pride Night warm-ups, what happened after the game really seemed to rub people the wrong way.
Following the Leafs' 6-2 win over the Panthers, Eric Staal was made available to the media. He was asked about his decision to opt out of the warm-ups and not wanting to wear a Pride jersey, he denied ever having worn a Pride jersey in the past. The problem is that he did. When the media made him aware of the fact that he has, in the past, worn a Pride jersey and that there is photographic evidence of the event, Staal doubled down and, again, denied it.
Not a great look for Eric, openly lying to the media, but in the age of the internet, there are no secrets and shortly after Staal vehemently denied wearing a Pride jersey and taking part in Pride Night festivities, a video and photo surfaced of him doing just that, as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in 2021.
With a game that is supposed to be for EVERYONE - a game that is marketed as being for EVERYONE - the NHL's various organizations are facing PR nightmare after PR nightmare with all of these players saying one thing, but doing another. It's as Brian Burke said following the Reimer discourse, wearing a Pride jersey isn't about signing up for anything. It's not about becoming an ally or buying into something that you don't believe in. It's simply sending a message that everyone is welcome in an NHL arena.
Being caught in a lie is pretty embarrassing and there are really no winners in this scenario. Staal made himself look bad in the public eye, his team has to deal with the PR aftermath, the fans are left feeling less welcome and more alienated and the rest of us are left to just sort of shrug our shoulders and watch it all unfold, wondering if/when someone from our team will be next. If the goal was to create a welcoming environment, the message that is being sent from teams to players seems to have been lost in translation.
24 MARS   |   773 ANSWERS
Veteran forward busted in a lie following Leafs game

What is your take on the recent surge of Pride Night opt outs?

It's a bad look for the game15119.5 %
Everyone should have the right to choose46159.6 %
Don't really care749.6 %
Players who opt out shouldn't play that game8711.3 %
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