CALGARY -- Hockey truly is for everyone.
And the Calgary Flames are spreading the message.
In support of the NHL's Hockey Is For Everyone initiative through the month of February, the Calgary Flames Foundation invited new Canadians of every background to Scotiabank Saddledome to educate those interested in learning more about the game.
"This initiative is great," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "I think it's gone a long way. Most pro sports have done a great job now of getting this slogan across. I know in hockey we take a lot of pride in getting the message out there and it's cool to see a lot of people experience it, but take part of it too and take the initiative."
Calgary's event was designed to introduce the sport of hockey, its rules, history and cultural significance to those new to the game.
It's an effort focused around community, said event co-host Harnarayan Singh of Hockey Night in Canada and Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi.
"It's beautiful, and I think that's the beauty of this great country where we are full of people from different backgrounds and that's what makes Canada so unique," he said. "It doesn't matter if we have differences. Hockey brought hundreds of people together today. Friendships were made; rapports were made amongst everybody.
"That's what is so great about sports, especially in Canada. That's what it did for me in my life and what it's done for so many people and that's what we want to share with everybody."
The Flames' event, supported by Hockey Canada, Hockey Calgary, HEROS Hockey, Football Hockey Link and KidSport Calgary, allowed participants to watch the Flames practice and get introduced to minor hockey in Calgary.
It also included a variety of special presentations, including one from Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy.
"If you look around the rink everybody is included and that's what's great," Conroy said. "Whatever your nationality, wherever you're from … if they want to talk hockey they have no problem, and they feel Calgary is their team.
"To me, looking around and seeing the culture and diversity amongst the people we have in here night-in, night-out … the more the merrier. It is for everybody. Everyone can play. Whatever nationality, it doesn't matter.
"You can see they like the game. Whether they know everything that's going on or they don't…they came because they want to learn more and we want them to learn more."
Hockey Is For Everyone in Calgary is part of a larger focus to emphasize inclusion League-wide.
Each day throughout February, Hockey Is For Everyone activities will focus awareness on such areas as LGBTQ, ethnicity and gender equality, and socio-economic status and those with disabilities. The campaign is conducted in partnership with the You Can Play Project -- a non-profit committed to supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting homophobia in sports.
The campaign marks the first time the Players' Association, the NHL and its teams have collaborated to encourage teamwork, inclusiveness and diversity in hockey at all levels daily for an entire month.
"I think the NHL and the players have done a great job with making this happen," Flames center Matt Stajan said. "It's such a great sport that you want everybody to have a chance to be involved. Today was a great day for that. This whole month has been. I think you can create that awareness and the more people involved the better."