PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers will host the first You Can Play Night of the season Monday when they play the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, NESN, CSN-PH) at Wells Fargo Center.
The You Can Play Project was created to ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. It was co-founded by NHL director of player safety Patrick Burke, who also serves as YCP president.
You Can Play has partnered with all 30 NHL teams, and NHL players have volunteered their time to appear in public-service announcements broadcast in arenas and on local sports networks.
Among the first players to appear in the videos was Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux. He said the basic message of You Can Play is what appeals to him, and why he's proud to be involved with You Can Play Night.
"If you can play, you can play," he said. "It's a great game and we just hope everybody can have the chance to play it. It's fun to see what's going to happen, how the event's going to go. Everyone is in."
You Can Play will have a presence off the ice at Wells Fargo Center, and the Flyers will highlight You Can Play's history and efforts to make sports a more inclusive place for all athletes. Local LGBT organizations in attendance will also be highlighted during the game.
In addition the Flyers will honor Helen "Nellie" Fitzpatrick, who has served as director of the Mayor of Philadelphia's office of LGBT Affairs since January 2015. It was a temporary post that voters made permanent in November 2015 to advocate for LGBT issues. Fitzpatrick is a 2012 OutProud Award recipient, a 2013 Pillar of the Community Award recipient, and a 2014 Voice of Protection and Advocacy recipient.
"We support You Can Play's mission and are happy to help shine a spotlight on this important League-wide initiative," Flyers chief operating officer Shawn Tilger said.
That the first You Can Play night is in Philadelphia has special meaning to Burke. Prior to joining the League, he was a scout for the Flyers.
"All of us at You Can Play are thrilled and honored to be having an official You Can Play night with the Flyers," Burke said. "You Can Play actually started back when I was a Flyers scout, and our first video featured Claude Giroux and R.J. Umberger, as well as then-Flyers James van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell. So the Flyers have literally been a part of this movement since Day 1. It's a first-class organization on and off the ice, and we hope this is an important step in growing the connection between the LGBT community and the sports community in Philly.
"Looking back it's amazing to see how far You Can Play has come in such a short time. It's a real tribute to the leadership in our League, from the League office to the clubs to the players themselves, that we've embraced this movement so strongly and visibly. There's a lot of work left to be done, but we are excited for moments like these that really move things along."
The players are honored to be involved with supporting equality organizations like You Can Play. They understand their role in society and the platform they have.
"Hopefully young kids see certain players as examples and they want to follow their lead," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "For sure it's an honor. We are proud we can be ambassadors or messengers."