Hockey is for everyone. Or at least, it was.
On Oct. 10, the NHL issued a statement banning the use of pride tape for practices, warm-ups and games.
This announcement comes after the decision to ban all specialty jerseys for warm-ups, including Pride Nights, Black History Night and Hockey Fights Cancer, after seven players from various teams declined to wear Pride Night jerseys due to family/religious reasons or “safety concerns” for Russian players.
This is a slap to the face for every member of the LGBTQ community, whether it be a player, such as Luke Prokop, the first openly gay NHL prospect, fans, coaches or staff. Hockey culture is already notoriously toxic and unsafe for minorities, and the NHL has been quite clear about who they are choosing to stand with.
In recent years, the NHL has been avidly working with You Can Play and started the campaign “Hockey is for Everyone.” This isn’t the case anymore. While hockey itself may be for everyone, the NHL has certainly made it clear that it, as a league, is not.
The league has chosen the hateful views of those who stepped forward, the seven players, less than 1% of the league, over the initiatives it has worked with for years. It has chosen to side with homophobia instead of allowing a few players to look bad for 15 minutes.
As a proud member of the LGBTQ and someone who grew up in a hockey family and played the game, it’s about more than just a rainbow on tape or a rainbow logo. It’s knowing that you can play the game.
With all eyes on the NHL, it’s time to turn our eyes to our own Division 1 team. Ferris isn’t in an entirely liberal location as Big Rapids is a predominantly Republican area. Ferris hockey is our only Division 1 team and an important part of our school’s culture.
Ferris State Hockey has done special event nights in the past, such as Veterans Appreciation, Military Appreciation, Pink in the Rink game for breast cancer and Ladies Night. What’s stopping them from hosting a pride night?
Showing the kids in the crowd at NHL games that they could play was the whole point of the now-abandoned “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative. It wasn’t just for the LGBTQ community, but for people of color, sled hockey and women’s hockey as well. Everybody has a place in the sport, and it’s time for Ferris to start showing that.
A simple night to raise money for an LGBTQ charity, such as the Trevor Project or maybe a couple of players slap pride tape on their stick and call it inclusion. Like Edmonton Oilers’ winger Zach Hyman said, “Taping our sticks is the least we can do.”
Just because the NHL has decided that pride tape is a distraction, it doesn’t mean that Ferris has to as well. Now is the most important time to show support for the LGBTQ fans, players, coaches and staff, because the sport we love is proving it will never love us back.