EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers have become the first NHL team to use Pride Tape, rainbow-coloured tape that represents support for LGBTQ youth in sports.
The hockey team used the tape during their annual Skills Competition on Sunday. There is no word on whether it will be allowed in every day play.
Dr. Kristopher Wells, the director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, said the response to the local initiative has been “phenomenal”, adding support has come in from around the world and across the hockey world.
“Every time we see the NHL become involved, we see more people start to back the campaign and that’s really important. Not just at the professional level, but the message it sends to young people who are out at their community rink and looking up to those athletes as role models, saying ‘we want you here, we want you beside us,’” Wells said.
“Your sexual orientation, gender identity doesn’t have to be a barrier any longer for you to participate in sport. Sport should include everyone.”
Wells said athletes can be profound role models and a hockey player’s use of Pride Tape can send a strong message of support and inclusiveness.
“It’s a very powerful statement and symbol of something so small that can literally help to change and perhaps even save the lives of young people who are feeling not supported or included in their families or the communities,” he said.
Natalie Minckler, the executive director of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, called the campaign a fantastic initiative.
“Our mandate is supporting youth education, health and wellness. So this program, this project fits very, very well with what we do,” she said.
“We’re actually really, really proud that we can be a part of this.”
Oilers defencemen Andrew Ference said the Pride Tape campaign is personal.
“When you stop and have the conversation, for the most part people realize it’s the right thing to do and include them in what you’re doing. People should feel free to be who they are. If it’s not hurting anybody, what’s wrong with it?” he said.
“To some people it means a lot, to know they have allies, to know they have support, to know their kids can feel comfortable in their own locker room.”
A fundraising campaign is underway to raise $54,000 to produce 10,000 rolls of Pride Tape. Wells said half of the tape will go to interested minor hockey league teams and associations across the continent.
“I think the hockey world is ready for this,” he said.
Supporters can donate to the Kickstarter campaign until Feb. 3, 2016.