The NHL season is just past the halfway point for all of its teams, but the Pride season is just getting started. Once again, each of the NHL’s 31 franchises will celebrate a Pride NIght or an Inclusion Night this season.
And the first to hit the ice with Pride Tape, on Saturday January 4, were the New Jersey Devils, who took what’s becoming a traditional place at the front of the Hockey For Everyone schedule.
Their game with the Colorado Avalanche drew 16,514 to Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. for a match filled with a special energy.
A crowd already fired up by a Devils team riding a 4-game win streak through the holidays, was also festive in both red and rainbow colors, celebrating hockey for everyone.
Autographed caps, rainbow pins, and more were sold to raise money for local LGBTQ groups. The group You Can Play also benefited from donations to create inclusive and safe spaces for everyone.
Max DeFrancesco, the long-time Devils National Anthem guest singer, sang the Star-Spangled Banner, Newark Gay Pride acted as Honor Guard and Backward Flag Brewery owner Torie Fisher was honored as Hero of the Game.
Out coach and high school athletic director Anthony Nicodemo took part in a panel discussion prior to the game about LGBTQ inclusion in sports, alongside Centenary University wrestler Alec Donovan and former college men’s soccer player Arman Bashiri, led by moderator Meghan Duggan, the U.S. Women’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team Captain and gold medalist.
In partnership with @outsports, tonight’s @NJDevils Pride Night pregame discussion on #LGBTQ inclusion in sports is lead by US Olympian @mduggan10 with panelists @coachNicodemo @thedoc42007 & Arman Bashiri. pic.twitter.com/Vy1Gs4JF8H— Joe Altenau (@joealtenau) January 4, 2020
Last night HV Stonewall President Anthony Nicodemo joined the NJ Devils for pride night and took part in a pregame panel.— Hudson Valley Stonewall Dems (@HVStonewallDems) January 5, 2020
Great job by the Devils promoting inclusion in sports! ️ #HockeyIsForEveryone pic.twitter.com/XY6p2efCjF
Thanks to the @NJDevils for a terrific Pride night effort. The importance of events like this cannot be understated. Visibility is so important and the Devils showed the inclusivity of sports. #HockeyIsForEveryone ️ pic.twitter.com/i8f95TAWqM— Anthony Nicodemo ️ (@coachNicodemo) January 5, 2020
The Devils also added a new event to the night. The team’s video production arm, njd.TV, unveiled a short film profile of a transgender boy. Eli is a die-hard Devils fan, who just may end up being a future heir to the throne of Devils goaltending legend Martin Brodeur.
Overall, a fun night that got a lot of response. It had everything — except a Devils win. A hat trick by Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen spoiled the party, and Colorado won 5-2, breaking the Devils’ win streak. But even the loss at home could not break the greater spirit in the Prudential Center, that hockey is for everyone.