Blackhawks’ Connor Murphy focusing on ‘big message’ for Pride Night, despite lack of jerseys

Murphy, Seth Jones and coach Luke Richardson commented Thursday on the Hawks’ organizational decision not to wear Pride jerseys on Pride Night on Sunday.

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Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy passes the puck.

Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy said the organization’s support and inclusion of LGBTQ members remains the prevailing message of Pride Night.

David Zalubowski/AP

WASHINGTON — A jersey “is a jersey,” but the meaning of Pride Night stretches far beyond that, Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy said Thursday.

Reacting to the Hawks scrapping plans to wear their usual rainbow-colored Pride jerseys for warmups Sunday on Pride Night, Murphy stressed that the disappointment over that decision shouldn’t overshadow the good that comes from the overall event.

“I can understand [why people are upset] when things are announced one way and then changed,” Murphy said. “But I hope that people understand we all support them.

“Whether it’s someone in the gay community or someone in any other community . . . we hope that everyone feels welcome in our arenas and watching us and even a part of the game and wanting to play. That’s the big message we hope can stay true.”

Murphy, the Hawks’ longest-tenured player in Jonathan Toews’ absence, told The Athletic on March 8 he was looking forward to wearing the Pride jerseys and expected all of his teammates to do so, as has been the case in previous years.

But sources close to the Hawks told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that the organization decided not to wear the jerseys this year over safety concerns for players with families in Russia, where a new law has banned supporting LGBTQ relationships.

That decision came from the front office rather than the players, sources said, and coach Luke Richardson confirmed Thursday that the “organization made the decision before it got to” the three Hawks with Russian heritage.

“We’re right there along with [those who are upset],” Richardson said, “because we have done this in the past and planned to do it again this year in support of it. The organization, because they had to make a decision and it’s a tough one, are just as disappointed as anybody. It’s an unfortunate situation, but that’s just what we have to deal with.”

Defenseman Seth Jones, who has been fulfilling the de facto captain duties in Toews’ absence, also commented on the topic.

“The jerseys aren’t the whole thing,” Jones said. “We still have a lot going on that night. I know there’s a lot of foundations and a lot of organizations still coming to the game, and [they] were OK with us not wearing the jerseys. We ran it by all of them, I heard. So we still support that cause. That hasn’t changed.”

Murphy echoed that sentiment.

“Our organization does a lot of great jobs throughout the year supporting a lot of causes in our community,” Murphy said. “They have the right heart in wanting to support every group and keep making hockey an inclusive sport. That’s important for kids to feel and understand. I still have faith in that and our sport and organization and team. Everything will come out positive.”

Despite the team not wearing special jerseys, the game against the Canucks still will feature performances before the game and during the intermissions by a number of LGBTQ groups, including the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association.

Blackwell out for season

Forward Colin Blackwell underwent successful sports hernia surgery that will cause him to miss the rest of the season. Estimated recovery time is 12 weeks — roughly mid-June.

Blackwell, who will turn 30 next week, has been sidelined since suffering the injury Feb. 27 against the Ducks. He finishes the season with two goals and eight assists in 53 games but has another year left on his contract.

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