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NHL celebrates LGBTQ+ inclusion at All-Star Weekend’s Pride Cup

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The National Hockey League (NHL) celebrated LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion at the Pride Cup ball hockey game, held during the NHL All-Star Weekend on Saturday, February 3 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.

The Pride Cup featured players from the Toronto Gay Hockey Association (TGHA), one of the biggest LGBTQ+ hockey associations. The event highlighted the NHL’s dedication to creating a welcoming and respectful environment for all hockey fans and players, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We’re part of the NHL All-Star Weekend, which is a tremendous example of inclusiveness,”  said TGHA commissioner Shane Hobson. “It’s a stacked day and we’re playing ball hockey in a fantastic venue.”

The event also underscored the NHL’s ongoing commitment to addressing past LGBTQ+ controversies within the league. The league has been criticized for its previous ban on theme-night pre-game jerseys and Pride tape, the rainbow-colored hockey tape that was created to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

However, the NHL has since reversed its decision and allowed players to use Pride tape throughout the season.

“For me, this is about showing the work that we do every day,” said Kim Davis, NHL senior executive vice president of social impact, growth and legislative affairs.

“Today’s tournament is a manifestation of all the work that goes on day in and day out that includes every aspect of society, and everyone that loves our sport and everyone who wants to love our sport.”

Commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion

The game ended with a 6-2 victory for Team White over Team Blue. After the game, Team White goalie Kris Hamill expressed his excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to play at the NHL All-Star Weekend and for the league’s support.

“I’m just so happy to be a part of this tournament, it’s been an amazing time and I’m just so glad the NHL made space for us,” said Hamill. “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long and it’s just so exciting.”

Two prominent figures in the hockey world, who have been vocal allies of the LGBTQ+ community, coached the two teams. Brian Burke, former NHL team executive and the current executive director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association, coached Team White.

Meanwhile, former NHL player and current NHL director of social impact, growth and fan development Andrew Ference coached Team Blue. Burke and Ference were assisted by Hockey Hall of Fame forward Angela James, who is openly gay.

“The overwhelming majority of hockey players and people in the locker rooms are incredibly supportive and incredibly proud to support causes like this and many great positive causes within the hockey community,” said Ference.

Dre Barone, the first openly gay man to referee an American Hockey League game, officiated the game. Barone said he was honored to be part of the event and to represent the LGBTQ+ hockey community.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also attended the game and presented the Pride Cup and a $25,000 check to the TGHA. Bettman said he was proud to support the LGBTQ+ hockey community and their quest for acceptance and inclusion in the sport and society.

The game also coincided with the eighth anniversary of Pride Tape. The tape was used by all the players in the game, as well as by many NHL players in other games. The tape has become a popular and powerful symbol of inclusion and diversity in hockey and other sports worldwide.

“Never thought we’d be here at the NHL All-Star Game. Our vision was to make the tape and if we could get it on one stick, it would help to share the message. That was the goal,” said Pride Tape co-founder Kristopher Wells.

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