By Bry McDermott | Asst. Photo Editor
In February, the NHL is putting down its fists and opening its arms to remind the world that “Hockey Is For Everyone.”
The NHL, the players’ association and all 30 franchises teamed up with the “You Can Play” Project—a nonprofit focused on supporting the LGBTQ+ community and fighting homophobia in sports—to create “Hockey Is For Everyone,” a league-wide program that preaches the inclusion of all people no matter their sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, social class, religion or disability.
As part of the program, each team is hosting a “You Can Play” theme night, with players using ‘pride’ tape on their sticks for warmups and later auctioning them off to support a variety of charities. Many teams have also sold “pride” merchandise, by incorporating rainbow colors into their logos, along with each organization choosing one player to be an ambassador for LGBTQ+ youth.
USA Hockey is also hosting its “Play Hockey For Free Day” on Feb. 25 and there have been a wide-range of sled and women’s hockey events promoted throughout all levels, including Pittsburgh hosting the National Women’s Hockey League All-Star Weekend.
The Washington Capitals even welcomed Fatima Al Ali, a 27-year-old player for the United Arab Emirates Women’s National team, as a special guest for a week. She attended Caps games, met her hero Alex Ovechkin, skated with the team and got to drop the ceremonial first puck before Washington took on the Detroit Red Wings.
The importance of the “Hockey Is For Everyone” activities is quite obvious. While the NHL has players representing over 20 different nations across the world, one can tell just by a simple glance at the rosters that the players are predominantly white males, many who come from upper-class families.
In fact, 98 percent of NHL players are white, according to NPR.
As the NHL continues to grow the sport of hockey, it’s crucial to show that not just one group of people can play. When young kids who don’t necessarily fit the demographics of the NHL see people who are similar to them or can put on equipment and try the sport for free, it can drive them to play the sport and/or become lifelong fans.
Sports shouldn’t be defined by the color of your skin, how wealthy your family is, your gender, who you love or anything but the pure passion you have for the game. Other professional leagues can take notes on what the NHL is accomplishing.
Hockey is for everyone; sports are for everyone.