It was only fitting that on You Can Play Night, the Carolina Hurricanes' Hockey is for Everyone ambassador Eddie Lack made the start in net.
Even more special, then, when Lack recorded a 34-save shutout, his first win in four months after recently returning from a pair of concussions.
After the game, Lack, in the spirit of You Can Play, dedicated the shutout to "love, equality and togetherness."
The league christened February as Hockey is For Everyone month, which "uses the game of hockey and the league's global influence to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities." At its core, Hockey is for Everyone aims to provide "a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status."
Every team has designated a Hockey is for Everyone ambassador, and Lack is that player for the Hurricanes.
"I was honored when they asked me. It's something I feel passionate for," Lack said. "The league is always doing good stuff like this, trying to grow the game and make everyone feel welcome here."
As a part of Hockey is for Everyone month, the Hurricanes hosted You Can Play Night on Friday. Among the celebratory activities, a number of players sported pride tape on their sticks during warm-ups and LGBTQ organizations were featured on the concourse and honored in-game. As a whole, the night embodied the mission of the You Can Play project, which is "dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation."
"Everyone is equal, and everyone has the same rights," Lack said. "It doesn't matter what skin color you've got or who you love."
You Can Play possesses an incredibly literal statement - if you can play, you can play. But what do those words mean? "You can play" speaks to those who feel discluded, those who feel as if or have been told that they cannot. It's a message of reassurance, of hope and love, an affirmation that we are all one.
"We're all a big hockey family. That's what it's all about," Lack said. "We want everyone to feel welcome here and included in the sport."