Once again the New Jersey Devils are showing how to be inclusive and demonstrate their support for LGBTQ sports fans.
The Devils hit the ice for warm-ups Sunday night wearing jerseys specifically designed to celebrate Pride for the team’s fifth annual Pride Night. Those first-of-their-kind jerseys were autographed after the game and auctioned-off, with part of the proceeds going to benefit Garden State Equality and You Can Play.
“We celebrate Pride Night once a year, but our Pride is year-round,” the team announced in an email to the news media. “What started as protest has turned into a celebration, but we know there is still much work that needs to be done. We are committed to providing an inclusive space where everyone is welcomed as their true and authentic selves.”
In the past, the Devils held this event earlier in the year, with the last one in January 2020. Covid-19 changed that, of course.
Joe Altenau, the vice president for event operations and guest experience for the Devils and its home arena, the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., came out as gay in 2017, the same year the team started this tradition. And he announced this year’s event in a TikTok video for the Sports Equality Foundation. Click here to watch:
Pride Night! #gayhockey #gaytiktok #sportsequality #NJDevils♬ SUNNY DAY - Matteo Rossanese
Among the Pride Night festivities and honorees announced by the team:
- Katie Mauro and Liz Kostro, long-time members of the New York City Gay Hockey Association, served as Honorary Captains of the game.
- Max DeFrancesco, a long-time guest singer of the New Jersey Devils, sang the National Anthem representing the LGBTQ+ community.
- Riley Keenan, Army Military Police Officer and Kadja Manuel, U.S. Army Specialist, were honored as the night’s Heroes Among Us. Riley entered the U.S. Army as a Private and served overseas during the Desert Storm Campaign.
This was the team’s first in-person NHL Pride Night since the coronavirus pandemic closed their Newark arena and other sports venues. The Devils offered a discount on tickets purchased online using the code PRIDE.
As Altenau said in his video, fans who couldn’t make it to the game can still purchase N.J. Devils Pride T-shirts, through Sunday, April 18. T-shirts cost $35 each and are only available through the team’s website. Click here for more information and to make a purchase. A portion of the proceeds benefits Garden State Equality and You Can Play.
The team announced that hockey sticks wrapped in Pride Tape and Pride-themed locker room name-plates will be auctioned in June in celebration of Pride Month and as a part of the Devils’ continued commitment to Pride throughout the year.
“To any of our fans or guests who may be struggling with their own sexual orientation, identity or expression, we support you and our home will always be a home for you and the Devils will always be family for you,” the team said on its website.
As we learned after first publishing this story, the Devils were not the first NHL team to host a Pride Night in 2021. It was the third one in the NHL held in the U.S. this year
The Tampa Bay Lighting held the first one in the U.S. on March 30.
Tampa Bay Lightning hosts Pride Night, with raffle proceeds donated to charity https://t.co/JJ61jo94wk #10news #news #wtsp pic.twitter.com/3lTT0PmSxA— Brandon Thompson (@brandonpromo) March 30, 2021
The Washington Capitals held the second one outside Canada on April 8.
The Calgary Flames hosted the NHL’s first Pride Night of 2021 last month.
In honour of Pride Night, a throwback to past @CalgaryPride parades ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MQSmwFBxVC— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 13, 2021
As for other pro sports, the Phoenix Suns had the honor of hosting 2021’s first Pride Night in the NBA, defeating the Washington Wizards Saturday night.
For 40 years @PhoenixPrideAZ has been organizing marches, rallies, parades, education and outreach events to celebrate the Phoenix LGBTQ+ community.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) April 11, 2021
Tonight we celebrate the march towards unity during @PayPal Pride Night! pic.twitter.com/zPctpvobkO
You can read more about the Suns Pride night by clicking here.
We’re still waiting to hear from most teams as they navigate the re-opening of their fields, stadiums and arenas to fans. One minor league baseball team affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Bradenton Marauders, told Outsports they’re hosting their Pride Night at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. on June 11th. The Hartford Yard Goats also plan at least one Pride Night and we look forward to sharing details when we learn them.
We’ll have more stories about Pride Night and Pride Day games coming up in Outports in the days and weeks ahead! Thank you to our reader Darnell Calhoun of Tempe, Ariz. for tweeting to us to point out, after we first published this story, about the Phoenix Suns’ Pride Night. We’ve updated this story to reflect that and published a separate story about the Suns. Thanks, Darnell!
And thank you to readers Jason Veltri and Tammy Guerrero for alerting us to the Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals’ Pride Nights and Kevin Paul who told us about the Tampa Bay Lightning! We regret the errors and appreciate every reader who helps us get it right... eventually.