The NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins hosted a Pride Night last night. Like all Pride Nights, that’s something we highlight and make sure to take note of, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out as unique all by itself.
What does make it different, however, is that it was also a Pride celebration for the Buffalo Sabres, the Penguins’ opponent that night at PPG Arena. Which made this contest the NHL’s second joint Pride Game with both teams paying tribute to their LGBTQ fans.
“Pride Night is a special night for us. It’s about the support we have for the LGBTQ-plus community,” said Penguins forward Jason Zucker.
With 220 miles separating both cities, Buffalo fans apparently just had to yell a little louder. But judging by the footage of every Bills tailgate, they’ve got it covered.
The idea of a joint Pride Game took hold during the 2020-21 season when a pandemic-shortened schedule and capacity restrictions inspired both teams to get creative with their promotional calendars.
One of the forces behind the event was Brian Burke, the Penguins’ president of hockey operations. Burke’s son Brendan was an openly gay manager of the Miami University of Ohio hockey team tragically killed in a car accident in 2010. Since then, Brian Burke and his son Patrick have been strong advocates for LGBTQ inclusion in sports.
After partnering up, both the Penguins and Sabres ensured that Pride celebrations would be impossible to miss in both cities when they met in Buffalo last April 17. Considering the promotion a success, they decided to bring it back for this season with Pittsburgh as host.
Which meant that last night, both teams took the ice during the pregame skate-around wearing the Progress Pride flag embroidered into their numbers and as a shoulder patch. As per NHL tradition, they both also broke out the Pride tape on their sticks.
The overall effect on the ice gave the impression of two teams united by Pride. And in a sport that frequently issues penalties for slashing, roughing, and fighting, it’s quite a feat for two teams to unite for anything that doesn’t involve at least three game misconducts.
As Penguins forward Bryan Rust put it, the most important aspect of the Pride Game as a player was “to have my voice be heard. And whether it reaches one person, whether it reaches a thousand people...to help somebody, that’s the goal.”
In the end, Buffalo ended up taking the joint Pride Game 2-1, avenging last season’s 3-2 loss. But it’s the only game on the calendar where regardless of who wins, both cities eventually get to celebrate with a parade.