South Philly was lit up Wednesday night as the Philadelphia Flyers hosted their annual Pride Game, honoring the occasion with celebrations both on the ice and within the community.

Leading up to the game, the team made a $35,000 donation to the Mazzoni Center, the largest healthcare center serving the Philadelphia LGBTQ community.

“The Flyers have helped us launch a new cancer program to detect and treat cancer that folks in the LGBTQ community are specifically susceptible to,” Mazzoni Center executive director David Weisberg said in a video for Flyers Charities.

Players Scott Laughton, Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee showed their support in person at the center, reaffirming the connection between the team and the local LGBTQ community.

“It’s been really special to me,” said Laughton of the visit, himself is a longtime ambassador and financial supporter of You Can Play, an advocacy group fighting homophobia in sport.

Not to be outdone on the night however, Philly Pride icon Gritty stole the show with an aerial dance performance to “YMCA,” draped in a sheer rainbow skirt.

The mood was a far cry from last year’s Pride, marred by the (now former) Flyer defenseman Ivan Provorov refusing to participate in wearing Pride jerseys with his teammates during the warm-up. In retrospect, we can look back at that as an inciting moment in the NHL’s significant backslide in its support of the LGBTQ community.

A month after Provorov iced out Pride night, NHL commissioner (and notable Outsports Dishonoree for Asshole of the Year 2023) Gary Bettman released an insulting statement suggesting that we should be “welcoming” and “understanding” of individual players’ homophobic attitudes.

The following month, the dominos continued to fall as the Minnesota Wild abandoned their Pride jersey initiative altogether, as did individual players on the San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Buffalo Sabres.

The final nail in the coffin of a disappointing 2023 came again from Bettman and the NHL front office in the form of a league-wide ban on Pride tape and jerseys, at the time perhaps the most egregious anti-LGBTQ policy any pro sports league in North America has ever issued.

Thankfully the league backtracked on part of that ban, and Pride tape made its appearance once again last night during warmups at Wells Fargo Center.

While the sport is still finding its footing again with its outreach to LGBTQ fans, the Philly team is certainly putting their best foot forward this year and making the case that, in spite of past missteps, hockey can still be for everyone.

For queer Flyers fans, getting to watch your team clinch a 3-2 shootout win over the Canadiens at home is a reason to celebrate all the more.