While sporting a gray t-shirt with a rainbow Carolina Hurricanes' logo, Trevor van Riemsdyk was focused and smiling as he wrapped multi-colored Pride Tape around the blade of his stick after practice on Thursday.
February is Hockey is for Everyone month, a joint initiative between the NHL, its 31 member clubs and the NHLPA that reaffirms inclusion on the ice, in the locker room and in the stands and celebrates a diverse and united hockey community.
As the Hurricanes' Hockey is for Everyone ambassador, van Riemsdyk is helping to spearhead the team's initiatives throughout February. Van Riemsdyk served as Chicago's ambassador last season and was also involved in the University of New Hampshire's outreach with the You Can Play Project.
"It's a great initiative," he said. "I think it's something that the league does a great job with. This month where they focus in is awesome, but I think they do a good job throughout the whole year of making sure that every locker room - I can only speak for the ones I've been in - but I know that they've been awesome and very inclusive. You can go in there and it's a welcoming environment where you feel right at home."
The Hurricanes' Hockey is for Everyone initiatives begin with You Can Play Night on Friday, Feb. 9 when the team plays host to the Vancouver Canucks. Various LGBTQ organizations will be stationed on the concourse, and the Kids 'N Community Foundation will host a special silent auction to benefit the You Can Play Project. Leaders within the LGBTQ community will be recognized and featured through various in-game activities. Fans will also notice a number of Hurricanes players warming up with Pride Tape wrapped on their sticks.
Video: Trevor van Riemsdyk: "The game has given me so much"
"It's important. We have a lot of guys who take pride in it and want to make sure, especially this month, that we get the word out there. It's a great month," van Riemsdyk said. "We have 20-something guys who really focus in and make sure that everything goes really well. It's something we all take pride in."
"It's awesome," head coach Bill Peters said. "It's a great sport, and everyone should feel they're welcome and everyone should be a part of it."
Under the Hockey is for Everyone umbrella, the Hurricanes will also host Girls Hockey Night (Feb. 13), Triangle Special Hockey Association Night (Feb. 16), Triangle Sled Hockey Association Night (Feb. 18) and Capital City Crew Night (Feb. 23).
Van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury recently surprised a group of Capital City Crew players at their practice at PNC Arena. The program provides opportunities for inner-city youth ages 8-14 to play ice hockey through partnerships with the Wake County Boys & Girls Club, Raleigh Youth Hockey Association and the Canes.
Video: Hockey Is For Everyone: Capital City Crew
"The one thing about hockey is it's not necessarily cheap. You have to buy the gear and ice time, so there's all that that goes into it. It's awesome they're able to get on the ice," van Riemsydk said. "It's awesome to see that more and more kids are getting the chance to play."
Exposing hockey and the values within to a growing population of youth and adults alike, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status, is the crux of Hockey is for Everyone. It's a celebratory initiative of inclusivity and diversity, a manifested belief of hope, love and community.
"It's a game that I've made a lot of my best friends in," van Riemsdyk said. "You want everyone to be able to have that opportunity to come in a locker room. There's a lot of fun to be had in there, and you want everyone to be able to experience that."