NEW YORK -- When the New York Islanders needed a You Can Play ambassador for Hockey Is For Everyone month, forward Casey Cizikas didn't hesitate.
It wasn't because Cizikas has a family member who is part of the LGBTQ community. Cizikas simply realizes how important the awareness of LGBTQ, ethnicity and gender equality, socio-economic status and those with disabilities truly is.
On Saturday, the Islanders hosted You Can Play night at Barclays Center, conducted in partnership with the You Can Play Project, a nonprofit committed to supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting homophobia in sports.
The Islanders had group ticket sales for the LBGTQ community, and a You Can Play booth was set up on the concourse at Barclays Center. People on Twitter were encouraged to use #Hockeyisforeveryone to show their support. There was also a scrimmage before the game for a LBGTQ hockey group.
Video: Islanders You Can Play Night
The Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes used pride tape, which features the colors of the rainbow, during warmups.
"I have friends of friends [in the LGBTQ community], and it definitely wasn't easy for them growing up," Cizikas said. "But the way the world is now, we've come a long way. It's definitely exciting.
"It's become a real big issue and a lot of people are realizing what they can and can't say. It's very serious. To bring the NHL family and the [LGBTQ] community together, it's big for everybody."
No NHL player has come out as gay, but Cizikas said when that day comes, the player will be accepted and treated like everyone else.
"We're a big family," Cizikas said. "Whoever it is, we're going to welcome them with open arms. Every team is a family, and it takes every single person to bring that family together. It would definitely be big for the sport."
Islanders coach Doug Weight is thrilled to see the League partner with the You Can Play Project, which was co-founded by Patrick Burke, the Director of Player Safety for the NHL. Burke's brother, Brendan, was gay and died in an automobile accident on Feb. 5, 2010. Patrick and Brendan are sons of Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke.
"It's great," Weight said. "Everything the League is involved in is obviously great, whether it's for cancer, they do a great job. This is a special thing to a lot of people. A lot of people know [Brian Burke] and know the situation, so we'll wear it proudly. What the League does for all charities is outstanding, the players in each community. It's all good causes, and this certainly is another one."