GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Mats Zuccarello is not just a proponent of the NHL and NHLPA's joint Hockey Is For Everyone initiative, the forward is serving as the New York Rangers team ambassador for the second straight season.
[RELATED: Complete Hockey Is For Everyone coverage]
But Zuccarello is torn over his role, because he thinks inclusion and positive social changes should be recognized worldwide as norms in society and wishes he didn't have to promote and serve as an advocate for them.
"We're in 2018 and at the end of the day I don't think it should be an issue, it shouldn't be something we have to talk about and it shouldn't have to be promoted," Zuccarello told NHL.com on Thursday. "We shouldn't have to have all this. We're living a world where people are different and it doesn't matter what you like or what color you are. It doesn't matter. The world is for everyone and everyone is different.
"But it's still an issue and you have to promote, and that's the biggest problem."
That's why he's doing his part. So are the Rangers, who will host their Hockey Is For Everyone night against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, SNW, NHL.TV).
Video: WSH@NYR: Zuccarello dekes, backhands in SO goal
Zuccarello works with Canadian-based Right to Play, a global charitable organization that delivers educational programs to war-torn, poverty-stricken and disease-riddled third-world countries.
Zuccarello specializes in Tanzania, where he has visited previously and will travel to this summer. He attempts to raise money for education in the African country.
"In Africa, they're not on the same level as a lot of the rest of the world," Zuccarello said. "It's real sad over there. There's a lot of places where girls don't have the right to do anything and kids don't have the opportunity to just go out, have fun and be kids. So we gather this money. We go down there and build facilities, educate teachers.
"The kids in Africa are the future of the continent and if the continent is going to be any better you have to start with the kids. You have to have better teachers and you have to teach the kids how to respect one another, respect girls. It's not OK there. You have to start young and support the school system over there with education and giving supplies, whatever they need, building facilities to show them a different world."
Zuccarello said he has raised approximately $1 million for Right to Play through four charity hockey games he's hosted in his native Norway.
He has bigger plans for this summer.
Zuccarello and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist have teamed up to put together an outdoor hockey game in a soccer stadium in Oslo on Aug. 11 with the proceeds going to Right to Play. They hope to have a crowd of at least 20,000.
"It's going to be a big thing," Zuccarello said. "Hopefully we can get as many players we can. We asked a few players around the League. We're going to play outside in a soccer stadium and we're trying to get as many players from over here that we can get."
Zuccarello said he's involved in these initiatives and charities because his platform as a professional athlete allows him to make a difference. It also puts into perspective what happens on the ice, where the Rangers have lost four in a row and 11 of their past 15 games.
"We're losing hockey games now, but at the end of the day there are bigger issues in the world," Zuccarello said. "For us to use our power or our forum to be a good role model, give back a little bit, I think everyone should."