Gary Bettman

Ice Hockey and Gay players

ᔥ The Atlantic

Ice Hockey is tough sport, one that actually allows fighting. There are no sooks in that sport. Over a year ago Sean Avery announced he supported marriage equality and since then there has been a battle for increased tolerance.

But the seeds had been planted for the You Can Play campaign, which launched last month and with a set of PSAs playing during some hockey broadcasts. In the PSAs, the players stress tolerance, equality, and gay rights at all levels of hockey, noting that if a hockey player can skate, score and even fight, then nothing else really matters—including sexual orientation. To date, about 30 players from the NHL and elsewhere have been filmed for PSAs. Recently, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also gave his public support to the campaign.

“The big thing we’ve seen in the past year is that the athletes are showing a willingness to talk about it,” Patrick Burke says. “We’ve had athletes who’ve been quietly supportive but never spoke up about it. Now, it’s no longer seen as exceptional when athletes speak out against homophobia.”

Skate, score and fight is all that matter in hockey. A new attitude has arisen:

“We’re not here to sugarcoat anything because part of the hockey community and other places are homophobic or anti-LGBT,” Silva says. “I think the biggest success our LGBT community has had and the biggest change you can see in the past year is really the kind of the “who cares?” attitude. It is becoming much like a person’s race, gender or religion. How does [sexual orientation] affect their ability to be a good hockey player? It’s moving more and more in that direction.”