BROSSARD -- Hockey is for everyone, and Andrew Shaw is ready to carry the torch.
During the month of February, the NHL will be spotlighting a variety of community-related initiatives in support of its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion in hockey.
On Thursday, the You Can Play Project -- an organization that works with LGBTQ athletes -- named Shaw among its 30 ambassadors tasked with promoting efforts in the community on diversity, equality and inclusion.
The choice may have raised eyebrows among some, but the outspoken Canadiens forward insists he's the man for the job following a regretful incident last spring.
"[You Can Play] brought it to the team and I thought it would be a good opportunity to help out. What I went through last year, I learned from it. Words affect people more than you think, and that's something that I learned," explained Shaw, who joins Brad Marchand, Frans Nielsen, Dion Phaneuf, and James van Riemsdyk as the Atlantic Division's five ambassadors. "After last year, I think it's a good position for me to be in. I can use my experiences to help others learn the value of words."
Video: Shaw on getting involved with You Can Play
Last April -- then a member of the Chicago Blackhawks -- the 25-year-old was suspended for a playoff game after using a homophobic slur from the penalty box.
Since publicly apologizing for the incident, as well as initially getting into contact with You Can Play nearly a year ago, Shaw insists the timing was right to get involved and prevent others from making the same mistakes.
"They brought it to the locker room and I volunteered to do it. Words are very hurtful, even if you don't mean them that way. There are words that should not be used. With my experience in the past, I think this is a good position for me to be in," continued the sixth-year NHL vet, who has always played with his heart on his sleeve. "It was a dark time, but you need to grow from situations like that. You need to learn from it, and turn it into a positive as much as you can. You need to get the word out."
Shaw's example is a testament to how far a little listening, education, and understanding can go when it comes to building bridges.
"[You Can Play] reached out to the organization here, and they think it's a positive thing. They're happy to have me, and I'm just going to do what I can to help."
To his critics, the Belleville, ON native argues that the program as a whole is more important than any one player or action, present or past.
"I don't want this to be a bigger story than it is. I want it to be about the program, not about me," concluded Shaw. "I just want to be there to help, and help is what I'm going to give."