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Matt Stajan is the Flames' You Can Play ambassador

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson /

When the NHL announced it was partnering with You Can Play Project for Hockey Is For Everyone, it asked clubs to have one of their players serve as the team's ambassador.

Matt Stajan was happy to answer the call.

The forward will serve in that role ahead of Tuesday's Flames' You Can Play Night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, which will feature Pride Tape being used in warm-ups and messages of inclusion from players, coaches and management being played throughout the game.

"It's nice to get asked and be recognized as someone who wants to create awareness," he told "But it's everyone, our whole team and the league.

"You have the guys who are the ambassadors but at the end of the day, it's all 700-plus players ... the NHL is doing a great job with creating awareness and showing that people anywhere and everywhere can play this game and will be welcomed. It's a great thing."

Founded in 2012 by Patrick Burke (Brian Burke's son), Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman, the You Can Play Project's mission is "dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity."

The organization has worked with amateur and professional sports teams to "challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete's skills, work ethic and competitive spirit."

A veteran of 917 NHL games, Stajan has seen great progress made in generating a more inclusive atmosphere in sports throughout the course of his career.

"The league has come a long way - the whole world has come a long way with the way we treat people," he said. 

"There's always been an old mindset in hockey - big, tough guys play hockey - but this game is for everybody. We've seen a shift with the way the game is played and also a shift in mentality ... everyone can play. Different nationalities, different cultures, different backgrounds ... it's great to see the game grow and evolve."

Video: Flames are proud to support the You Can Play Project

Stajan and the Flames have been long-time supporters of the You Can Play Project. In addition to marching in the annual Calgary Pride Parade, theFlames Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to the You Can Play Project's Western Canada Ambassador Program which consists of LGBTQ-identified athletes, sports leaders, coaches and advocates tasked with executing You Can Play educational outreach opportunities in communities across Western Canada that will inform more LGBTQ youth to hear the You Can Play message that they are valued, accepted and empowered.

For more information on the You Can Play Project, please visit their website.

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