I want to devote this post to something that completely escaped my attention last month, and it’s about that “intersection” of two things I’m so cool about: LGBT support and the sporting world. Over a year ago, I wrote a post about this:
Yes, that’s rainbow tape covering those stick blades. Or as it’s officially called, Pride Tape. It was launched in December 2015 by the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services (ISMSS) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Not long after it was first unveiled, the Edmonton Oilers became the first National Hockey League team to use Pride Tape (or at least a prototype) in an on-ice event. Not too long after that, Pride Tape started being sold through an informational and transactional website (PrideTape.com), with portions of the proceeds going to support the ISMSS as well as You Can Play, an organization “dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
The National Hockey League has a partnership with You Can Play, and during the month of February 2017, the league put that partnership on full display through its own initiative called Hockey is for Everyone. As its website states:
“We support any teammate, coach, or fan who brings heart, energy, and passion to the rink. We believe all hockey programs — from professionals to youth organizations — should provide a safe, positive, and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Simply put, Hockey is for Everyone.”
Since they’re part of hockey’s upper echelon, the NHL leverages their influence to help highlight important societal issues, including inclusiveness. And they really put that leverage to use in February, with each of its 30 teams hosting at least one Hockey is for Everyone event during the month. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks were among event hosts. So were the Detroit Red Wings, Arizona Coyotes, and Washington Capitals.
As you could tell from the above video featuring the Capitals, Pride Tape was indeed used to promote LGBT inclusion. By at least one report, 20 of the 30 NHL teams used Pride Tape during at least pre-game warmups.
As noted above, the NHL is big enough to spread influence about not just the sport of hockey but societal issues as well. So it was with the general message of Hockey is for Everyone and in particular LGBTQ inclusiveness and acceptance in hockey. Case in point, the Medicine Hat Tigers of the junior level Western Hockey League, who earlier this week held an event promoting diversity and inclusion in sports.
The event included Tiger players taping their sticks with Pride Tape. And not just for warm-ups. They used the tape during the game.
It certainly is awesome to see a great symbol of inclusiveness such as Pride Tape in use throughout organized hockey. There is a lingering question, however: Is this all nothing but a public relations show by the NHL? Will using rainbow colored tape on a hockey stick be the cure for homophobia and hetero-normal beliefs? Well, nobody expected Pride Tape to be a magic wand and assure inclusiveness and acceptance overnight. But its true purpose is as a catalyst, a few strands of tape that will create a bit of a nudge that will spark a greater (and much needed) conversation about homophobia in sports in general and ice hockey in particular. And that drive toward full acceptance can only grow and grow as time goes on.
Recommended Reading Time: Chey McDonald, a resident postdoctoral researcher who’s part of the University of Alberta’s ISMSS writes a great blog post, which can be found here, about their time involved with the launch of Pride Tape and You Can Play. They have some honest thoughts, including that full inclusiveness will take some time, but the drive toward that point is off to an impressive start. It’s a well written piece, and I highly recommend it to you.