Hockey seems like it’s in a constant fight with perceptions, from it’s alleged un-approachability for casual fans to its occasional bouts of thuggish behavior. It’s seen a cliquey by some, too: a good-old-boys sport played by good-old-boys, where progressive thinking is suffocated by an old school mentality.
It’s inspiring when hockey wins this fight, breaking through stereotypes to reveal the quality of the people involved in the game. Like, for example, the League’s early adoption of You Can Play, the organization founded by Patrick Burke whose mission was to ensure that “athletes should be judged on athletic skill and ability, not sexual orientation or other discriminatory factors.”
About two years later, the NHL has become the first professional sports league to have all of its teams represented by a player who has spoken on behalf of LGBT athletes, as Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche joined the effort this week.
“Having full and, more importantly, ongoing participation from the NHL, is a milestone for acceptance of all athletes at every level of play and sport,” said You Can Play executive director Wade Davis. “Every major men’s sports league has been represented in a You Can Play video and now every team in one of the world’s premier sports leagues has actively participated. This support from professional leagues has a positive impact in locker rooms and anywhere sports are played.”
"Young athletes everywhere look up to National Hockey League players as leaders on inclusion,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Our players, our Clubs and every member of the NHL family will strive to support important initiatives such as You Can Play in our local communities and around the world."
Here’s Landeskog’s video with players from Mountain Vista High School (Highlands Ranch, CO) and Regis Jesuit High School (Aurora, CO):
A full list of players involved with You Can Play can be found here.
We’ve come a long way from Sean Avery facing a firestorm for speaking out in support of gay marriage, haven’t we?