The groups have discussed initiatives that include ideas such as athlete PSAs, education training,and rules-based initiatives designed to encourage a culture of inclusion. You Can Play Project representatives will work closely with league officials and players to custom-tailor initiatives to meet the unique needs of the CWHL.
The CWHL is the first league to officially partner with You Can Play.
YCP fouder Patrick Burke said this new partnership opens the opportunity for CWHL athletes and coaches to fully express themselves.
"The sense I got from speaking to the CWHL officials is that female athletes are tired of not being able to speak out," Burke told Outsports. "People seem to think that homophobia is a non-issue for female athletes, but a great many elite female athletes feel pressure to be (or appear) to not be a lesbian. They feel that pressure from sponsors, from fans, from boyfriends, and from their leagues or governing bodies. Several female athletes have expressed concern to me personally about how it might affect their Olympic team hopes if they were known to be (or even perceived to be) a lesbian. And the CWHL are just saying, 'Enough.' The LGBT athletes are going to stand up and be counted for who they are, and the allies are going to stand up alongside them. And that is a great thing for the entire CWHL, and for female athletes everywhere."
The league bills itself as "the most premier, professionally run women's hockey league in the world." There are currently five teams based in Canada and Boston. The league has a relationship with the NHL; The Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames both support their local CWHL team. The league, one of two major women's hockey leagues in Canada, launched in 2007.
The press release announcing the partnership between the CWHL and You Can Play is below:
(Mississauga, Ontario) December 20, 2012 - The Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the You Can Play Project announced a partnership today dedicated to ensuring equality for all of the CWHL’s athletes, coaches, staff, and fans, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.
You Can Play Project will work with the CWHL to find new and creative ways to ensure that lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) athletes are ensured a safe environment, free from homophobic language and other actions that may contribute to athletes feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. The groups plan to work closely on a campaign to change and improve the culture of women’s hockey. The CWHL is the first league to partner with the You Can Play Project.
“LGBT female athletes face a different set of problems than male athletes, but those problems are no less serious,” says You Can Play Project President Patrick Burke. “This partnership will encourage both LGBT athletes and their numerous straight allies to speak up for each other, without fear of recrimination from teammates, coaches, fans, or sponsors. We are thrilled to work closely with the outstanding athletes in the CWHL to create an inclusive, safe environment in women’s hockey.”
Through its partnership with the You Can Play Project, the CWHL hopes to mobilize its athletes, coaches, administrators, and fans to take important steps towards creating a safe environment in their arenas. “We are truly excited to be partnering with You Can Play on this initiative,” says CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress. “Our league is committed to celebrating and embracing the diversity of our athletes, staff, and fans, regardless of the sexual orientation. Our athletes are eager to get to work by showing their public support for the initiative and for their teammates.”
Jayna Hefford, center for the Brampton Thunder, also welcomes the partnership, “As a player in the CWHL, the partnership between You Can Play and the league is something we can all be proud of. As the first league to support You Can Play, the CWHL will be a safe environment for all athletes, coaches and fans.”
The groups have discussed initiatives that include ideas such as athlete PSAs, education training, and rules-based initiatives designed to encourage a culture of inclusion. You Can Play Project representatives will work closely with league officials and players to custom-tailor initiatives to meet the unique needs of the CWHL.
The CWHL is the most premier, professionally run women's hockey league in the world. It enables elite female hockey players to pursue their dreams of competing at the highest level possible, while enhancing the lives of others through exceptional athleticism, entertainment and motivation. The league is centrally funded, with all participating teams in the CWHL receiving equal access to financial support and given the same opportunities to succeed. The CWHL is a not-for-profit organization, with every dollar going towards building a league that is dedicated to raising the profile of women's hockey, providing a place for the best female players in the world to compete and inspiring the next generation of female hockey heroines. Since the CWHL’s inception in 2007, each hockey season has culminated in an exciting play-off round in which the top teams face off for the Clarkson Cup, named after former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson.
Photo from CWHL.ca