NEW YORK -- Harrison Browne tweeted a picture of himself in front of a marquee outside Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
A response from one of his nearly 5,000 followers made Browne's day, long before the first transgender player in professional hockey participated in the ceremonial opening face-off prior to the New York Rangers' game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Pride Night at the Garden.
"When I came out as trans 15 years ago, I never would have imagined that a transman just like me would be dropping the puck for my favorite team," Alex Thornton, 30, who lives in Arizona and has the Twitter handle @AlexNYR20, tweeted in response to Browne's photo. "Representation matters. Being visible and living your truth matters. Pride nights and Hockey Is For Everyone nights matter."
Browne, who spoke with NHL.com prior to the puck drop, said it was surreal to read Thornton's response.
"It was really heartwarming," he said. "That was it. That's all I needed."
Browne played three seasons in the National Women's Hockey League for the New Jersey-based Metropolitan Riveters and the Buffalo Beauts before retiring after last season in order to complete his physical transformation. The Toronto resident now works for the You Can Play Project as a consultant.
Browne was asked by You Can Play to represent it and everything it stands for as a social activism campaign at the Rangers' Pride Night.
"Whenever You Can Play nights come along I get asked to do this because I'm a hockey player and I have a strong tie with the community," Browne said. "It's kind of a no-brainer for me to do these events, but I'm super excited to be back in New York and near where my old team was."
Browne, who participated in a ceremonial puck drop at the Florida Panthers' Hockey Is For Everyone night last season, said it's important to him to be a part of these nights because it helps create visibility and promotes You Can Play's mission to eradicate homophobia in sports.
"Everywhere I go I'm an ambassador, but now it makes more sense to work in partnership [with You Can Play] to see what we can do to spread more awareness," Browne said. "I have more time I can devote to training youth, to be out in the community."