The Seattle Pride Hockey Association, also known as SPHA, is a Seattle nonprofit organization which is geared towards the growth of ice hockey through diversity and inclusion.
One of the league's motto is "anyone over age 18 with an open mind and a love for hockey is welcome."
We caught up with co-founders Steven Thompson and Joey Gale earlier this month to find out more.
The SPHA currently has players within the Greater Seattle Hockey League (GSHL) that hosts tournaments and events throughout the Greater Seattle area.
Gale and Thompson explained the Seattle Pride Hockey Association’s mission and how the idea first came about.
“We decided to start this Seattle Hockey Association back in early -- or late 2018, because as a new player myself, I started in November of 2017 and I was incredibly nervous and scared not knowing what I was getting myself into. It was a very hyper-masculine sport,” Thompson said.
“And what was the locker room environment going to be like? What were the players going to be like? Were they going to be supportive of me?," Thompson wondered.
But shortly after that Steven was introduced to another lover of ice hockey, Joey Gale.
"I met Joey in late 2018, so about a year later, and I noticed that he had his stick wrapped in Pride tape. And so we started this conversation -- that why don't we start an organization that is about promoting diversity, equity, inclusion in growing the game. And so that's how the Seattle Pride Hockey Association came about in early 2019.”
The SPHA also works with the National Hockey League and have now teamed up with the Seattle Kraken to bring awareness and openness to hockey.
“One of the reasons I think I decided to join Steven on this venture is because growing up as a kid, I played hockey growing up in Minnesota, and I often found, you know, just the lack of role models and heroes to look up to,” Gale said.
There still aren't any male gay hockey players in the NHL. So when you look in this space, it's like you wish there were folks like you to identify with their role models or organizations that you just shared similar values with. So one of the reasons that I decided to join Steven in starting SPHA was kind of just to fulfill a childhood dream of creating an organization that represents me and who I am and the sport that I love.
Thompson and Gale found the SPHA in 2019 and have seen it grow with so much support and so many sponsors.
Gale explained, “when you think about pride, there's so many different ways you can kind of dissect the word, whether it's personal pride or their history of pride.
“One of the things that I really gravitate most towards in pride is being thankful for a lot of the folks who've kind of paved the way for us to be doing what we're doing right now. You look at the history of pride. We're celebrating Pride Month in June...
“I love Pride Month because I get to celebrate with all my friends in the streets during a non-Covid times, you know, we'd be all together celebrating as one and just that movement of being together and celebrating -- what it means to love one another, regardless of your background, I think is what it means most to be full of pride, too.”
Thompson and Gale are also working to create more queer spaces and demonstrating the importance of normalizing those spaces for everyone, along with how allies can help without taking over the space.
“I often say most when I'm talking to people is that we want to be inclusive, not exclusive,” Thompson added. “And some of the feedback that we've gotten in our early days where why don't you just create a gay organization that's just for gays to play in or LGBT communities and that just completely goes against what we want to do.”
We don't want to create this exclusive environment for people. We want to be welcoming and inclusive of all people.