The Edmonton Oilers became to first NHL team to wrap their sticks in Pride Tape as a sign of solidarity that LGBTQ players will be accepted in hockey at all levels.
"I love progress," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "This conversation wouldn't have been had when I started playing hockey. If you went into a room and told guys to put rainbow tape on a stick, it would have been a completely different conversation. It speaks to the progress that's been made, how amazing You Can Play has done it in bringing guys around to the conversation and making it a conversation and making guys think about inclusion in the locker room and inclusion in sports. ...
"It's the right thing to do to accept people for who they are. ... People should feel to be who they are. If it's not hurting anybody, what's wrong with it? That's how guys talk about it in the room — we don't really care. If you're a good guy and a good teammate and you're working hard, it's no problem."
The Oilers used Pride Tape on their sticks during the team's annual Skills Competition on Sunday.
The team was among those contributing to a Kickstarter campaign to produce 10,000 rolls of tape. The goal is to get the tape in the hands of as many players and teams as possible. Patrick Burke and the You Can Play team were also major backers of the effort.
"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."
The NHL is the only one of the North American male pro team sports leagues to never have an out active or publicly out retired player. And yet players like Ference, a star in the NHL, show that acceptance is there.
Here is a video from the Oilers showing the tape in use: