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Hockey Is For Everyone

Andrew Shaw of Canadiens embraces You Can Play role

Montreal forward savoring opportunity to spread message of inclusion

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Andrew Shaw wants one thing to be clear: He is not doing this for himself.

Shaw volunteered to be the Montreal Canadiens' ambassador for You Can Play, a League-wide initiative tied to the Hockey Is For Everyone campaign to promote inclusion and awareness of minority issues in the game.

The You Can Play Project is a nonprofit organization built to fight homophobia in sports and support LGBTQ athletes.

Last season during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Shaw, then a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, was suspended one game for using a homophobic slur during Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues.

"It was a dark time; it was difficult," Shaw said Friday after practice. "But you need to grow from situations like that; you need to learn from it and turn it into a positive as much as you can and get the word out there."

Video: Shaw on getting involved with You Can Play

Shaw said he volunteered to be one of 30 team You Can Play ambassadors because that experience taught him how hurtful words can be and he wants to spread that message to as many people as he can.

"I used a word that I never should have," Shaw said. "It's a word that's been used for years and people need to know it's not right. I know that some who use it might not use it toward that community at all, but the word's still hurtful to many people out there. I think the world needs to know that. It can be viewed as similar to a racist comment as well. Everyone's equal out there, everyone's the same.

"So I think we should all step up and treat people the way we want to be treated."

Shaw said his intentions in getting involved are sincere and not in any way tied to his desire to change his image in light of the incident last season, even if that experience is what inspired him to get involved.

"I don't want this to be a bigger story than it is," Shaw said. "I want it to be about the program, not about me. I just want to be there to help, and help is what I'm going to give."

Part of Shaw's role as an ambassador will be to serve as a leader in the dressing room on issues of equality and inclusion, something he feels more than comfortable doing. He said he would not be hesitant to step in if he heard something inappropriate being said in the dressing room, but most importantly he wants to be a supportive teammate in case anyone needs to talk.

"If you're a friend or a teammate of mine, you know I'm a good listener," Shaw said. "I'm a good guy to vent to or talk to or whatever you need. I'm there to support my teammates and people in the community. I'm just going to help as much as I can, use my past and show people and talk to people about the power of words.

"I want everybody to be themselves and be comfortable with who they are, because I think if you're comfortable with yourself and comfortable with who you are that's the only way to be happy. That's what I want, I want everybody to enjoy themselves, I want everybody to be happy, I want everybody to be themselves. I hate seeing people that are shy, not wanting to express who they are and how they feel. I think the only way to be truly happy is to be yourself, through and through."

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