The Edmonton Oilers became the first NHL team to use Pride Tape, a multicolored tape to promote inclusiveness in sports. The Oilers used the tape Sunday during their annual Skills Competition at Rexall Place.
"Many view professional hockey players as role models and our team felt this was a great initiative to let every person know they're welcome in the game of hockey," defenseman Andrew Ference told the Oilers website. "We're all proud to play for a team and city that supports diversity and human rights."
The Oilers' Twitter account posted photos of the players' sticks wrapped in the tape before the competition began.
The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) is also making a donation to become a Founding Partner of Pride Tape and help get the initiative across the goal line. The EOCF focuses on initiatives to promote education, health and wellness for youth.
"We are thrilled to be partnering with the Oilers and officially launching Pride Tape in Edmonton, a city that believes in diversity and human rights, and a city that proudly supports our LGBTQ community," said Dr. Kristopher Wells, Faculty Director with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, one of the partners spearheading the campaign. "It's a local initiative with national reach and we're very excited to have the Oilers be the first to support this inclusive message on the ice."
Wells and Calder Bateman Communications are working together on a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough funds to produce 10,000 rolls of the tape. As of Sunday, they have raised more than $40,000 of their $54,000 campaign goal.
On the Kickstarter page, Pride Tape is described as a badge of support from the teammates, coaches, parents and pros to young LGBTQ players. It shows every player that they belong on the ice, that everyone is on the same team and your help is needed to make it a reality.
When Pride Tape is up and running, proceeds will support LGBTQ youth outreach initiatives, such as You Can Play and the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services. That means every roll of tape will make an impact on and off the ice.
In 2013, the NHL and NHLPA partnered with You Can Play, an organization "dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation"
On Sunday, You Can Play tweeted a statement from co-founder Patrick Burke, who works in the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
"I truly believe that a moment like the Oilers using Pride Tape would have meant the world to a young Brendan Burke," said Burke, whose brother Brendan was an openly gay student manager who worked to combat homophobia in hockey. Brendan died in a car accident in 2010. "It would have helped him, tremendously. And made him feel welcomed, like a true part of the hockey family. And I'm happiest today for the young LGBT hockey players in Alberta who will see this and feel welcomed by our league."
Since partnering with You Can Play, the NHL has seen all 30 teams represented by a player in PSAs. Teams have committed to having You Can Play nights this season. The first will be Monday when the Philadelphia Flyers face the Boston Bruins at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, NESN, CSN-PH).