Denis Gurianov doesn't wear Pride jersey, misses Habs warmup

Russian forward Denis Gurianov did not participate in the Montreal Canadiens' pregame warmup after choosing not to wear a Pride jersey during the team's Pride Night on Thursday against the Washington Capitals.

Gurianov made the decision due to family reasons, the team said in a statement.

"While we understand the decision, we also hope the focus of attention remains where it belongs: on evolving as a society to be more accepting and welcoming of all, without exception," the Canadiens said.

A handful of players across the NHL have objected to participating in their teams' Pride Nights for reasons that include religious beliefs. The Chicago Blackhawks said in March that they would not wear Pride warmup jerseys due to safety concerns related to the team's Russian players.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law expanding the country's restrictions that effectively outlaw any public expression of LGBTQ+ behavior or lifestyle in Russia.

Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said it was hard to comment on Gurianov's decision because he'd never walked a day in his shoes.

"I think anybody can say you'd always try to protect your family, so I have a tough time judging that," St. Louis said. "[Gurianov] is a great kid, it's tough."

Despite Gurianov sitting out, St. Louis stressed how important the night is for the organization.

"We're all on this planet, we should love each other, and tonight's one of those nights," he said. "We, the Montreal Canadiens, really care about this night, and so do I, it's a great night."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.