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Hockey Is For Everyone

Flames host Hockey Is For Everyone night

Forward Matt Stajan says campaign is 'great way to spread awareness' about inclusion in game

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames forward Matt Stajan is helping spread the message: Hockey is for everyone.

The idea will be front and center when Stajan and the Flames host their Hockey Is For Everyone night on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings (9 p.m. ET; SN1, FS-W, NHL.TV).

"No matter where you come from, whatever way you live your life, hockey is a sport you can play," said Stajan, the Flames ambassador for the You Can Play project. "It's a great way to create awareness. I think everyone is so supportive of it these days that it's great to see.

"At the end of the day everybody, all 700-plus players in the League, are stepping up to be a part of this and I think that's a good thing."

Throughout February, Hockey Is For Everyone month activities have focused 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 You Can Play -- a non-profit committed to supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting homophobia in sports. The project was started by Patrick Burke, the director of player safety for the NHL and son of Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke. Patrick's brother, Brendan Burke, came out as gay in November 2009. He died in an automobile accident on Feb. 5, 2010.

"It's about the big picture…to reach out to young kids is what I really think is the best part of days like today and the You Can Play program," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "You know there are people out there, young children out there…by us promoting the message and getting through to a few kids and let them know that everyone should be included I think it's a strong message. It's a really good message to be sending, especially to young kids. I have my own son now. I'd like to pump this sort of message to him about the world, really.

"The League has done a great job of it."

The message has strong support from the Flames.

Stajan and teammates Troy Brouwer, Chad Johnson, and goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet marched in the Calgary Pride Parade on Sept. 4, and the Calgary Flames 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 last year.

It's all done to help spread the message of inclusion.

"Everyone shows their support…every single player," Stajan said. "It creates a lot of awareness for hockey fans and sports fans. The world's just getting better and better with accepting the way everybody lives their lives. I think that's important and the way it should be.

"Everybody's doing a job to make that happen."

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