UPDATE: Our initial report reversed the order of the Wings’ Twitter responses and we have since corrected this. Outsports regrets the error.
Numerous minor league teams hold Pride Nights. Last week, hockey’s Kalamazoo Wings looked decidedly big league when they commemorated it by standing up for our community.
Straight out of the LGBTQ celebration playbook, the ECHL’s Wings commemorated their 2023 Pride Night by decking their logo out in rainbow colors on social media. As is unfortunately too often the case, they received some angry responses from a few trolls.
One Twitter user in particular decided to play the, “If you’re going to support human rights, I’ll have to take my business elsewhere” card, threatening the Wings that, “As long as you have this as your logo, you won’t be seeing my family at your games.”
He added the hashtag “#CarefulWithYourMktng,” apparently based on the old business school adage: “The customer is always right (as long as he’s a straight dude).”
Pretty much every team is familiar with this online phenomenon and most operate on a “don’t feed the trolls” policy. But the Wings decided that a better course of action would be to show their LGBTQ fans that they unequivocally support them.
@KalamazooWings initially responded with a universally understood emoji…
The message was clear and unmistakable: If your fandom is contingent on us pretending LGBTQ fans don’t exist, peace out. We’ll be just fine without you.
Wings Twitter then clapped back at the homophobic message with a GIF featuring the perfect avatar of snarky LGBTQ judgement: David Rose from “Schitt’s Creek.”
In response, the troll began ranting to Wings Twitter about drag queen story hours, which made about as much sense as asking Sugar and Spice about their favorite Gordie Howe fight.
In putting this out there, the Wings were also putting any homophobe who would attack them for celebrating Pride on notice and telling them “We are on the side of the LGBTQ community and your threats won’t stop us.” That exemplifies what a Pride Night should be all about.
Former player Brock McGillis, who came out as gay following his retirement, was a member of the Wings during the 2003-04 season. He saw the team’s clapback and approved:
Proud to be gay and alumni !— Brock McGillis (@brock_mcgillis) January 12, 2023
In a conversation with Outsports about his former team’s gesture of support, McGillis said, “For so many, that visibility is really important — especially fans. And to show them and tell them that they have a space is really great to me.”
McGillis added that if this kind of moment happened while he was still an active player, “I’d feel proud and probably a little sense of relief to know that there’s allyship within the organization at some level or potentially queer people.”
However, he also explained his belief that when it comes to LGBTQ acceptance in hockey, a divide still exists between the cultures of the business side and the locker room. McGillis emphasized, “Knowing the corporate side [of hockey] may be supportive, or some within it at least, is nice. But for me, the biggest impact would be teammates and coaches and management doing [similar] stuff and being vocal about it.”