EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas is their ambassador for Hockey Is For Everyone month for a second straight year, an opportunity he once again is honored to be a part of.
The Islanders are holding their Pride Night on Saturday when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets at Barclays Center (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-O, NHL.TV). Islanders Pride Night benefits and is supported by You Can Play and the LGBT Network. There will be special in-game entertainment, giveaways, and food and beverage offerings.
"We welcome everybody, no matter what," Cizikas said. "I think that's the great thing about hockey and the great thing about the people in it. I don't think you ever talk to anybody that said a hockey player hasn't been polite or a hockey player hasn't been nice to them or their kids. I think that's just the way we were kind of raised."
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No NHL player has openly come out as gay, but Cizikas believes when that times come, that player would be embraced and accepted.
"I don't know if there is any (now), but I definitely wouldn't have a problem with it," Cizikas said. "We're a tight-knit group and the entire hockey community would stand behind that person. I don't think anyone would have a problem with it."
Islanders players will use rainbow stick tape during warm-ups, and the game will begin with a special puck drop with You Can Play ambassador Sandra Velasquez. Velasquez is the founder of Hockey Fights Hate, which organizes and holds recreational hockey scrimmage events to raise funds for civil rights and similar advocacy groups across the country.
An auction for a game-used stick will take place on the concourse, with proceeds going to LGBTQ charities. The exterior of Barclays Center will be lit in rainbow colors.
Fans are encouraged to show support on social media throughout the night by using #IslesPrideNight, #HockeyIsForEveryone, and #YouCanPlay.
"For hockey in general, it's always a tough subject to bring up," Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said. "But when you're kind of a role model in the community like we are and you have the power when you say it's OK to be who you are, I think that helps people in the world to just understand that it's changing.
"For the support that we can give as far as just even having a day or even a little thing like taping our sticks … if you're good enough to play whatever it is, whether it's the NHL, any sport or do anything, if you're good enough to be there, there's no difference of your sexuality or whatever it is. It shouldn't matter."