Wild's Fleury dons Native American Heritage mask (0:21)Marc-Andre Fleury wears a custom Native American Heritage Night mask in warmups Friday despite the NHL having forbidden him from doing so. (0:21)
Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury wore a custom Native American Heritage Night mask in warmups Friday despite the NHL having forbidden him from doing so because it violated league policy on players wearing specialty equipment on theme nights.
Fleury wanted to honor his wife, Véronique, who is Native Canadian, by wearing a specially designed mask by artist Cole Redhorse Taylor.
His agent, Allan Walsh, said Fleury was informed he wasn't permitted to wear the mask in the game or in warmups against the visiting Colorado Avalanche because it violated a new NHL policy this season. Walsh said that Fleury offered to pay whatever fine the league would levy but that the NHL then threatened the Wild organization with an "additional significant fine" if he flouted the rule.
A source told ESPN there isn't any punishment expected for Fleury or the Wild from the NHL for the goalie having worn the Native American Heritage-themed mask. The Avalanche won 3-2, and Fleury did not appear in the game.
The NHL announced in June that teams were no longer allowed to wear "specialty" jerseys during warmups, practices or games that supported causes such as Pride, military appreciation or ethnic heritage nights. The league further clarified that on-ice player uniforms and gear worn in warmups, official team practices and games could not be altered to reflect "specialty" theme nights.
The theme night equipment ban was approved by the NHL board of governors with no objection from the NHLPA. It was enacted after several players refused to take part in warmups last season when their teams wore Pride Night jerseys, citing personal or religious objections to the LGBTQIA+ initiative.
There have been some exemptions made under the policy this season.
In October, the NHL reversed its ban on Pride tape, the rainbow-colored stick tape players had used to support the LGBTQIA+ community, after Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott became the first NHL player to use that tape on his stick during a game. Neither Dermott nor the Coyotes were punished for violating the policy at that time.
"Players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season," the NHL said in a statement.
While the league rejected Fleury's request for a Native American Heritage Night mask, it allowed two goalies to wear specialty masks for Hockey Fights Cancer nights this season: Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and Seattle Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer. A source familiar with that decision said those exemptions were due to those goalies having worn cancer-awareness masks before the ban was enacted and due to the nature of the cause they were supporting.
The Wild first asked the NHL about Fleury's mask about a month ago. Noah Ennis of Shell Shock, who made Fleury's mask, told ESPN that the Wild were under the impression after speaking with the NHL that Fleury "couldn't wear it in the game but that he could probably wear it in warmups."
"They had a stance they weren't going to allow anything, and then players started saying they were going to use the Pride tape," Ennis said.
But Ennis said that when the Wild asked the NHL again about the mask this week, "it was a firm no on all of that."
Redhorse Taylor said on Instagram that it was an honor to design the mask for Fleury.
"I was very humbled to represent my community and my family this way. The helmet will be up for auction after this weekend, all proceeds will go towards a Native American led charity that assists with indigenous families in the [Minneapolis-St. Paul] area," Redhorse Taylor said.
Bids on Fleury's mask were nearing $6,000 Friday night before the game. The Wild's Native American Heritage Night jerseys, which are autographed but not game-worn, are also up for auction.