The Toronto Gay Hockey Association was featured during the “Pride Cup” on Saturday at NHL All-Star Weekend, and there was no shortage of outward support from the NHL.
In the end, Team White beat Team Blue, 6-2, in the ball hockey game. But the real winners were the LGBTQ hockey community.
While the NHL has rightfully taken a deserved avalanche of criticism — including from Outsports — over the last 12 months for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s public defense of homophobia and the banning (then allowing) of Pride Tape by players, the league’s embrace of this game goes squarely in the win column.
Coaching the two teams were former NHL executive Brian Burke, who is now the executive director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association, and longtime NHL player Andrew Ference, who now serves as NHL Director of Social Impact, Growth and Fan Development. The men have been two of the biggest straight supporters of the LGBTQ community in hockey over the last decade.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand to present the trophy, in addition to a $25,000 check for the Toronto Gay Hockey Association. As Bettman said last year, he doesn’t want the Pride rainbow on the NHL’s ice during games, but he’s apparently comfortable hanging out with the gays away from his games.
It was a positive gesture by Bettman, whose actions earned him the 2023 Outsports Asshole of the Year award. Hopefully he continues to demonstrate public support for the LGBTQ community.
“For me, this is about showing the work that we do every day,” Davis said, according to NHL.com. Davis is the NHL’s senior executive vice president, social impact, growth & legislative affairs. “Today’s tournament is a manifestation of all the work that goes on day in and day out that we include every aspect of society, and everyone that loves our sport and everyone that wants to love our sport.”
The referee for the game was Dre Barone, who came out publicly as gay several years ago.
The event reflected the widespread support LGBTQ people have from people across the NHL, including athletes.
“The overwhelming majority of hockey players and people in the locker rooms are incredibly supportive and incredibly proud to support causes like this and many great positive causes within the hockey community,” Ference said. “I think within hockey, we see the overwhelming support for this community and that’s incredibly encouraging for me.”
All around, good on the NHL for highlighting this game, and we look forward to seeing much more of it, hopefully putting an utterly disastrous 2023 behind the league.