“Absolutely not,” Sutter told Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times about whether an openly gay player would have a negative impact in the locker room. “They’re like your family. And the better you get to know everybody, the better you always are. It’s so much of our culture.”
Sutter also had a great take on the “You Can Play” concept in the league.
“Everybody can play?” he says with mock surprise. “Well everybody can play. What’s the difference if I was gay or not gay? Or black or white or Native American? What difference does it make?
“We’re acknowledging it. And making it a point of emphasis. But once you get to the point, going forward in our lives, it’s not an issue. It’s accepted.”
The Kings were among the many NHL teams that held LGBT Pride nights in February as part of the league’s Hockey Is For Everyone campaign. This included the league selling rainbow-colored pride shirts for each of the 30 teams.
The Vancouver Canucks held their Pride game Tuesday night and the players skated in warm-ups in rainbow jerseys and sporting Pride tape on their sticks.
What the NHL did in February with coordinated league-wide events for LGBT awareness was unprecedented for a pro sports team. In addition, each team has an LGBT ambassador, another first. And coaches like Sutter make it clear that an openly gay player would be accepted in most locker rooms.
Yet the reality is that the NHL is the only one of the big five male pro team North American sports — the NFL, NBA, MLB and MLS are the others — to never have had an openly gay player either active OR retired, the latter being a big surprise. Despite all the league has done, players still feel it’s not in their interest to be publicly out. When that changes is anybody’s guess.