The NHL and the NHLPA partnered with the You Can Play organization to bring about Hockey Is For Everyone month. The You Can Play Project is a nonprofit committed to supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting homophobia in sports. All throughout February, teams hosted activities to bring awareness and diversity to their respective clubs.
Every team hosted a Hockey Is For Everyone awareness night. This recognized hockey players of all ages, genders, and those from different backgrounds. This includes LGBT+ players, sled hockey players, blind players, players with special needs or disabilities, players of different ethnicities, and recent immigrants.
Each team designated one home game as a You Can Play night to celebrate LGBT+ members of their communities. Teams also designated one player to be their You Can Play ambassador. These players are tasked with being a leader both in the locker room and in their communities on inclusion, diversity, and equality.
Braden Holtby, goaltender for the Washington Capitals, was selected as You Can Play ambassador for his team. He has supported the LGBT+ community in the past, marching in the Capital Pride Parade along with his wife. He designed a custom mask specifically for the Washington YCP night and auctioned it off afterwards with the proceeds going back to help the You Can Play Project.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “Our Clubs (teams), our players and our fans are committed to welcoming everyone to hockey. While the NHL family strives for diversity and inclusiveness all year long, February is Hockey Is For Everyone month, which will highlight, on a daily basis, the many ways our sport brings greater attention, heightened awareness and broader opportunities.”
Including others and celebrating diversity will change the sport for the better. On a personal note, I hope that the NHL continues to head in this direction, and that fans and players alike can continue to support this amazing initiative.