"More tape on more sticks means more messages."
When Jeff McLean co-created Pride Tape five years ago from an office in Edmonton, Alberta, never did he expect it to have the global reach it does now.
Players in all 31 hockey clubs in the league now use the rainbow hockey tape to wrap their sticks for warm-up during NHL Pride Night, but it has gone well beyond pro-sports and the shorelines of North America.
Video: PRIDE NIGHT | Jeff McLean from Pride Tape
"[When we came up with the idea] we decided if one player used the tape and another player saw that and felt accepted and like they wanted to stay in the game, we would be happy with that," McLean explained about his early intentions.
The meaning of Pride Tape is simple - it represents inclusivity. McLean says after conducting research, he and his team noticed homophobic language spiked during sporting events.
"That's when we said we really need to do something about homophobia and sport."
McLean went on to share one of his favorite moments that captured the spirit of Pride Tape at a game in Columbus.
"I have a picture hanging on my wall which I get to look at everyday - it's a photograph of one of the players skating by the blueline with pride tape on his stick and up in the stands behind him is a young fan holding up a sign that says 'thank you for accepting me'."
The New Jersey Devils were one of the first NHL teams to wrap their sticks in Pride Tape back in 2017.
"Almost every day during the Kickstarter campaign, different NHL clubs were coming on board including the Devils, and that's really what gave it steam."
In 2019, Devils' forward Kurtis Gabriel unintentionally made history and put his name on the LGBTQ+ map when he kept his stick wrapped with Pride Tape for the entirety of the game, and even went as far to score the game-winning-goal with it.
"He told us later that his phone started blowing up with people asking about the tape, and that's when the NHL called and said they wanted to talk to us about this and the motivations," McLean recalled. "It's actually written up in Firefly's book for the 100th anniversary of the NHL."
Pride Tape has been seen wrapped around axe handles, barbecue utensils, bicycles, dog leashes - you name it - and McLean admits he loves seeing the tape "out in the wild".
"There was a painting sent to me from Germany the other day with somebody skating using Pride Tape on their stick."
McLean credits the New Jersey Devils, the NHL and its players for its early and ongoing success, and says never in a million years did he expect it to have the kind of reach it does.
"We just make tape, you make it powerful."
The Devils' Pride Night is on April 11, 2021. Normally Pride Tape and other items are sold on the concourse, but as HBSE practices Covid-19 safety protocols, this year all fundraising efforts will be moved online. More information to follow soon.