The National Hockey League (NHL) launched a new month-long initiative on February 1: Hockey is for Everyone. Its goal is to use the league’s “global influence” to promote equality in the hockey community with respect to race, religion, disability, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation.
The initiative consists of a variety of activities wherein NHL teams will interact with their communities in order to encourage inclusivity and bring awareness to minority groups in the hockey community.
The NHL collaborated with You Can Play, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure LGBTQ athletes, coaches, and fans are given “fair opportunity” and are judged “only by what they contribute,” to put on the event.
The organization was co-founded by the NHL Director of Player Safety Patrick Burke, in honour of his late brother. Brendan Burke had been a gay athlete at Miami University who died in a car accident only months after coming out. During those few months, however, he had used his platform to call for acceptance in the hockey community.
On You Can Play’s website, Patrick Burke remarks that his brother “taught [him] what the locker room can be like for young LGBT athletes, then showed [him] the difference one person can make by standing up for what’s right.” His hope is that “as each person or team stands up, LGBT athletes everywhere will become aware that they can be themselves without fear.”
This hope is championed by the Hockey is for Everyone initiative. Each NHL team has a You Can Play ambassador who has committed to being a “leader in the locker room and in the community on diversity, equality, and inclusion.”
Select teams will also be designating one home game as a You Can Play night in celebration of local LGBTQ community members.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will host their You Can Play night against the Buffalo Sabres on February 11 at the Air Canada Centre.