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Dallas Stars miss a chance by not reaching out to gay fans

The team isn’t doing anything special, unlike other teams.

Rafael McDonnell with the Stanley Cup when it came to Dallas as part of the NHL’s 100th anniversary.

When the National Hockey League and You Can play announced that every team in the league would be holding a “Hockey Is For Everyone” night during February, I was excited as a Dallas Stars fan, for personal and professional reasons.

I’ve been a fan of the team ever since 1993, when former owner Norman Green moved them from Minnesota to Texas. I helped my then-employer (a television station) plan the coverage of the 1999 Stanley Cup victory parade, and watched the double-overtime Game 6 of the Cup finals (losing to the New Jersey Devils) in a gay bar.

The Stars have had a challenging season on the ice this year. So, I was hopeful that the team would reach out to the broader LGBTQ community and their allies to pack American Airlines Center for “Hockey Is For Everyone” night. To me, it seemed as simple as an empty-goal net. But when the Stars play the Coyotes on Friday night, it probably won’t happen.

I was hopeful that the Stars would do what some of the other NHL teams have done: light the arenas in rainbow colors, modify the team logo, use Pride Tape on the pre-game warm-up sticks, and reach out to LGBTQ organizations (such as the community center where I work) to set up booths in the arena. None of that is scheduled to happen in Dallas.

What is happening, according to a team official I spoke to in my professional capacity earlier this month, is that the team put together a video in support of You Can Play that will be shown in the arena. That’s all. With everything that other NHL teams are doing in support of “Hockey Is For Everyone,” why aren’t the Stars doing more?

Unlike other parts of the country, official LGBTQ sports nights held by Texas teams in the four largest professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) are rarer than a hat trick. In 2003, around 200 tickets were sold to a community-generated, non-team-sponsored event at a Texas Rangers game. The event hoped to draw 1,000 members of the North Texas LGBT community. It also drew protests from church groups.

Since then, there have been no other similar events involving the local major sports teams and their LGBT fans. The Rangers’ interstate rival, the Houston Astros, held their first official “Pride at the Park” event in 2010, drawing more than a thousand fans. It is unclear, though, if similar events have been scheduled in recent years.

I’m not angry at the Stars for not making a bigger deal about their “Hockey Is For Everyone” night. The team is within its rights to market events as it sees fit. But this feels like a missed opportunity to build a bridge between sports & the broader Texas LGBTQ community.

We here in the Lone Star State feel under attack by our state’s leaders, as evidenced by the national uproar surrounding Senate Bill 6 — a “bathroom bill” similar to North Carolina’s economically disastrous House Bill 2. LGBTQ recognition and participation in the events surrounding a NHL hockey game might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but inclusion matters. In the words of sports fans everywhere who deal with disappointment, “there’s always next year.”

Rafael McDonnell is communications and advocacy manager for Resource Center, the LGBTQ community center serving the greater Dallas area. The opinions are his own.