Vancouver Canucks forward Emerson Etem was raised in a nonjudgmental household, one that believed in equality for all.
That's why Etem, a native of Long Beach, Calif., jumped at the opportunity to march in the 38th annual Vancouver Pride Parade on Sunday.
"I'm really excited," Etem told NHL.com. "Being from Long Beach, I think Long Beach has the second-most LGBT community next to San Francisco in the world. I come from a very open-minded city, open-minded family. I'm excited to support the cause this weekend. I'm really looking forward to it."
It is the fourth straight year the Canucks will participate. With Etem spending the offseason in Vancouver, he said it was an easy decision to be involved.
"I knew it [was] coming and it was soon," Etem said. "I was here and I wanted to be a part of it. I've been here all summer. I just think it's a great opportunity to show my support. I've just felt, especially in the hockey community, the more open and the more information that we know about all this, it just gives people who are in the LGBTQ community that maybe play hockey that they're not afraid to participate and show our welcomeness and support for them."
The Canucks are one of several teams across the NHL who have participated in such events; last month, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and his wife, Brandi, marched in the Capitals Pride Parade. Three years ago, the NHL and NHLPA announced a partnership with the You Can Play Project that formalizes and advances their long-standing commitment to make the NHL the most inclusive professional sports league in the world. You Can Play was co-founded by Patrick Burke, the NHL director of player safety.
"The Burke family has done a great job of starting the You Can Play movement," Etem said. "I think hockey has definitely grabbed a hold of it and ran with it. I'm excited for this opportunity. I've been to L.A. Gay Pride [parades] in the past. There have been a few things in Long Beach that I've been a part of. Any time I can come out and show my support, I'm very grateful to be with an organization like the Canucks that is just as open-minded as me. It's just good to see their support and it's good for me to be a part of it."
Etem, 24, started last season with the New York Rangers before he was traded to Vancouver on Jan. 8 for forward Nicklas Jensen and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He was often a healthy scratch and had three assists in 19 games with the Rangers.
Video: EDM@VAN: Etem beats Talbot to give Canucks the lead
But a prior working relationship with Canucks coach Willie Desjardins led to a smooth transition; Etem played for Desjardins with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League and had 65 points in 72 games in 2009-10. Etem had seven goals and five assists in 39 games with Vancouver.
"For me, it was a tough situation in New York," Etem said. "I didn't have the best camp that I wanted to early on, and it kind of just stuck with me (until) Christmastime. I was quite down. But I knew with Willie, he was my old coach in juniors, just that in itself really helped me, knowing (Canucks forward) Linden Vey and just a couple guys from just around the hockey world, they just were all welcoming. It took some weight off my shoulders and helped me out quite a bit.
"It's been kind of a struggle, maybe up and down, in my young career. But the Canucks have given me all the tools and all the support needed to have success. I'm definitely looking to take on the challenge [this season]."