MONTREAL - As part of National Hockey League's Hockey is for everyone month, the Montreal Canadiens will present tonight's game under the themes of inclusion and diversity when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Bell Centre. In collaboration with You Can Play, the NHL partner for this campaign, the Canadiens want to emphasize the importance of respect and inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) community in sports.
To this end, Montreal Canadiens players will demonstrate their support for the initiative by using rainbow-colored Pride tape on their sticks during the pre-game warm-up period. These sticks will then be auctioned to raise funds for You Can Play programs. Launched in 2012 by Patrick Burke in honor of his brother Brendan, You Can Play works to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sport, including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans. The organization wants to change the sport culture and ensure that teams and their supporters focus on the athletes' skills, work ethic and competitive spirit, not their sexual orientation or gender identity.
At the launch of the Hockey is for Everyone 2017 campaign, forward Andrew Shaw volunteered to serve as the Montreal Canadiens' You Can Play ambassador. ''I just want to be there to help, and help is what I'm going to give," said Shaw. "Everyone's equal out there, everyone's the same, so I think we should all step up and start treating people the way we want to be treated.''
As 81% of Canadians say they witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports, Shaw wishes to stress the importance of vocabulary used by athletes and supporters. "Words hurt more than you think. If you're not using a word in a certain way, it still has an effect. That's when I learned a word like that, no matter how it's used or when it's used, it's hurtful. They may not show it, but words cut deeper than you think. It's something everyone needs to learn."
GRIS-Montréal and Équipe Montréal will be present at the community booth across from section 103 to provide information on their services to supporters before and during the game. Finally, the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation will welcome in its suite students from Oka's High School, who through a group called Groupe 101, came together as allies in the fight against homophobia by organizing multiple activities in their school, raising their comrades' awareness about gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans realities. Their initiative allowed them to win the 2016 GRIS-Fondation Simple Plan Prize, a competition initiated by GRIS-Montréal and GRIS-Québec, which rewards projects to fight against homophobia in schools.
February is Hockey is for Everyone month in the NHL
Throughout the month of February, the Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation held activities promoting inclusion and diversity as part of the Hockey is for Everyone campaign. With this initiative, the NHL seeks to create positive social change and promote inclusion of hockey players regardless of race, ethnic or national origin, color, religion, sex, intellectual or physical disability, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.
Learn to Play program
The Montreal Canadiens, in collaboration with the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association, launched this month the Learn and Play program, a new initiative designed to initiate and increase participation of children aged four to eight in hockey. The Learn to Play program is an affordable and safe option for children who have never practiced the sport to allow them to develop new skills while learning the fun and benefits that come from playing hockey. Former Canadiens players, including Francis Bouillon, Gaston Gingras and Gilbert Delorme, actively participate in the program as spokespersons and certified instructors. Organized in collaboration with the Brossard Minor Hockey Association, St-Jean Minor Hockey League, Lakeshore Hockey, Hockey Montréal, and Hockey Laval, this year's program offers nearly 300 children introductory six-week hockey sessions in the arenas where the partner associations are located.
For the Provigo Practice presented at the Bell Centre on February 19, the Montreal Canadiens welcomed around 100 Syrian refugees with the help of the Centre social d'aide aux immigrants in the spirit of inclusion and openness to new Canadians. For these families who arrived in Quebec in the past few months, this hockey practice became a unique opportunity to become familiar with hockey and the importance of this national winter sport in the lives of Quebecers and Canadians.
Canadian Tire BLEU BLANC BOUGE in action program
Presented on February 22 to conclude the six-week initiation to skating Canadian Tire BLEU BLANC BOUGE in action program, the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation's BLEU BLANC BOUGE skating party brought 270 children from disadvantaged backgrounds together at the Bell Centre. In collaboration with the neighboring schools of the BLEU BLANC BOUGE community rinks, the Foundation's program allows children in first and second grade to learn how to skate. These kids, one-third of whom originally hail from over 45 different countries, took to the Montreal Canadiens' ice to work on their new skills. They also enjoyed a visit to the locker room, met with Youppi! and Geoff Molson, and each received a pair of brand new skates, courtesy of the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Foundation, which will enable them to skate on their neighborhood BLEU BLANC BOUGE rinks.