Over at the NHL, they’re gonna need a shitload of Pride tape.
The league and the NHL Players Association announced this morning that the 31 professional hockey teams are joining forces with the You Can Play Project, expanding its “Hockey For Everyone” campaign so that it will include — everyone.
All 31 teams held “Hockey Is For Everyone” Pride Night events in January, February and March — just like they did last year — but this year, their players will leave the rinks and march in the streets, says the NHL.
“NHL alumni and current players will participate in pride parades across North America including 2019 WorldPride in New York City,” said a league spokesperson in a statement.
And everywhere this season, expect to find Pride Tape, that rainbow striped accoutrement used exclusively to wrap the sticks of players like Zach Hyman of the Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils’ Kurtis Gabriel.
As Outsports reported in April, Gabriel has pledged to use Pride Tape on his stick forevermore.
“For me, using Pride Tape is just a small gesture that I hope will go a long way. Anyone can play the game we all love and cherish so much,” Gabriel. The Devils forward was quoted in the league statement.
“I was raised by my mom to treat people the way you want to be treated and that means being inclusive and accepting people for who they are, because I want to be accepted, too,” Gabriel said.
In addition to player and alumni participation in these efforts to celebrate LGBTQ fans and staff, and using the rainbow-colored tape on hockey sticks, the NHL launched a Pride website with videos in an effort to “build and support a community that welcomes and celebrates authenticity and the love of hockey.
You Can Play traces its roots to 2012, when it was created by Patrick Burke, NHL Senior Director of Player Safety. Since then, the project has the support of more than 100 pro hockey players, who have voiced their support for gay teammates.
“There’s no better way to make young athletes and fans feel safe and welcome than to have their sports idols and the teams they look up to showing this kind of recognition and support,” added co-founder Brian Kitts, vice-president of You Can Play. “This was the original vision of You Can Play, and our partnership with the NHL and NHLPA has made that something that LGBTQ athletes and allies alike can feel good about.”
For its educational efforts, You Can Play recruited players to tell their stories, such as Patrick Farabaugh, an exile who created one of the largest gay hockey organizations in the world, the Madison Gay Hockey Association.
Also featured is Elliott Govaars, 15, whose transition was welcomed by his all-girls hockey teammates, and encouraged by his personal hero, Harrison Browne. The Canadian was the first trans pro athlete to compete in an all-star game and dropped the ceremonial puck for the Rangers during the team’s Pride Night celebration at Madison Square Garden in January.
Another profile focuses on Brock McGillis a hockey player who stayed in the closet during his career due to homophobia. His video includes a chat with out professional hockey referee, Dre Barone.
The league commissioner said these efforts will bring home the NHL’s inclusive message.
“At parades and events across North America celebrating Pride, the NHL and our partners will be participating to send a message that is clear and unequivocal — hockey is for everyone,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in the statement. “We are immensely proud of the work that members of our NHL and extended hockey families do to make all feel welcome in the world’s greatest game. Furthering inclusiveness is a year-round mission for the NHL and we are excited to highlight some of our efforts during this Pride Month.”
Editor’s Note: the original version of this story misidentified a photo of an NHL player using Pride Tape. We’ve corrected the caption to reflect the photo is Zach Hyman of the Maple Leafs. We regret the error.