NHL and You Can Play announce groundbreaking partnership

Published On April 12, 2013 | By Kimberly Petalas

Hockey players have been leaders when it comes to ending homophobia in sports and bringing equality to all sports. Now, the league as a whole is taking a stand and partnering with the You Can Play Project.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association and the National Hockey League formally announced its partnership Thursday, with a commitment to make the NHL the most inclusive professional sports league in the world. Sound good? It certainly does to us.

For those who aren’t familiar, the You Can Play Project was founded by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke. It is an advocacy organization that fights homophobia in sports and celebrated its one year anniversary on March 4, 2013. Since being founded, the project has always had tremendous support from the hockey community and other sports as well, including many college programs. Professional players Tommy Wingels and Andy Miele, as well as former NHL General Manager Brian Burke (Patrick Burke’s father) all serve on You Can Play’s Advisory Board.

“The NHL sets the standard for professional sports when it comes to LGBT outreach and we are incredibly grateful for their help and support,” said Burke. “We will work with League and NHLPA officials, teams and players to ensure that we create a more inclusive hockey community at all levels.”

Although it has only been around for about a year, the project has already made great strides in the hockey world and sports community at large with its message of tolerance and education on LGBT issues in sports. It’s made its way into the world of celebrities, too, and rapper Macklemore made a video voicing his support recently.

“Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players’ Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.”

“As NHL players, we all strive to contribute towards helping our teams achieve success on the ice. Any player who can help in those efforts should be welcomed as a teammate,” said Ron Hainsey, Winnipeg Jets defenseman and NHLPA Executive Board member. “This partnership solidifies the message that the hockey community believes in fairness and equality for everyone.”

With the partnership, You Can Play will conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium. Their goal is to educate young prospects on LGBT issues, building understanding from the ground up. You Can Play resources and personnel will be available to each individual team, as well.

Using this partnership, the NHL, NHLPA, and the You Can Play project will integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program, enabling players to confidentially seek counseling or simply ask questions regarding matters of sexual orientation.

It’s a huge step for an entire league to put support behind educating its players in order to create an atmosphere of acceptance, and it’s a step in the right direction for professional sports.

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About The Author

Kimberly graduated from Hofstra University in December 2012. She has been a sports fan her whole life and grew up around sports, whether it was playing or watching them. She started her writing career interning for her local newspaper, The Gardner News, where she currently works as a reporter. In college, Kimberly wrote for Long Island Report, as well as Her Campus Hofstra.