NEW YORK/TORONTO – The National Hockey League Players’ Association and the National Hockey League today announced an historic partnership with the You Can Play Project that formalizes and advances their long-standing commitment to make the NHL the most inclusive professional sports league in the world.
“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 Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, the co-founder of the You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that fights homophobia in sports. “We will work with League and NHLPA officials, teams and players to ensure that we create a more inclusive hockey community at all levels.”
Said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: “Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. 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.”
“NHL players have supported the You Can Play Project since its inception, which we are pleased to formalize and expand upon with today’s announcement,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director. “The players believe our partnership with the NHL and You Can Play will foster an inclusive hockey environment from the grassroots level to the professional ranks.”
The official partnership with You Can Play includes a significant commitment to education and training for teams, players, media and fans plus the production and broadcast of more public service announcements. The NHL becomes the first major American professional sports league to officially partner with an LGBT advocacy group on this scale.
“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.”
You Can Play will conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium to educate young prospects on LGBT issues. In addition, You Can Play will make its resources and personnel available to each individual team as desired. The NHLPA and NHL also will work with You Can Play to integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program, enabling players to confidentially seek counseling or simply ask questions regarding matters of sexual orientation.
The You Can Play Project, co-founded by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 4, 2013. From its inception, it has had tremendous support from the hockey community and beyond. Co-founder Brian Kitts is a former front office executive with the NHL Colorado Avalanche. Glenn Witman, a third co-founder, played college hockey and founded the elite gay sports league, GForce Sports. NHL players Tommy Wingels and Andy Miele, and former NHL General Manager Brian Burke all serve on You Can Play’s Advisory Board. Over 100 professional hockey players have voiced their support for gay teammates and have been joined by athletes from numerous sports representing approximately 20 NCAA organizations.