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1st Pride Cup ball hockey championship comes to downtown Edmonton

Click to play video: '1st Pride Cup ball hockey championship comes to downtown Edmonton' 1st Pride Cup ball hockey championship comes to downtown Edmonton
WATCH (June 9, 2021): San Jose Sharks forward Kurtis Gabriel is working hard to try to inspire more players and fans to become advocates of the LGBTQ community. Gabriel created a sensation in the hockey world in February 2019, when he scored his second career NHL goal using pride tape on his stick. He speaks with Gord Steinke about how it's time for more players to stand up for equality and inclusion in all sports.

The inaugural Pride Cup ball hockey championship will see a Battle of Alberta in downtown Edmonton’s ICE District Plaza on Aug. 6.

The Edmonton Rage will take on the Calgary Pioneers on Saturday. Gates open at noon and the puck drop is at 2 p.m.

Pride Cup, presented by Global Edmonton and in partnership with the Edmonton Oilers and Pride Tape, is part of Pride 365. The event is an expression of support of diversity, equality and inclusion through sport.

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“We share the deep belief that everyone has the right to live, learn, work and play in a safe environment,” said Tim Shipton, executive vice president of the Oilers Entertainment Group.

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“We hope Edmontonians will join us in the plaza on Aug. 6 to send a strong message to the sports world that diversity, equality and inclusion should be celebrated and respected every day and every month of the year — and that hockey is for everyone.”

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Shipton said the event came about after Kris Wells and Jeff McLean with Pride Tape approached the Oilers about hosting a Pride event in the summer. He said the ICE District and some kind of hockey-themed event immediately came to mind.

“We’ve got this plaza we want to get people in… Why don’t we host a ball hockey game and why don’t we get a little bit of the Battle of Alberta going on and have a game between Edmonton Rage and the Calgary Pioneers?”

Pride Cup ball hockey championship in Edmonton, Aug. 6, 2022. Courtesy: Oilers Entertainment Group

Pride Cup is about celebrating and acknowledging Pride all year round.

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“It’s something that’s incredibly important to us,” Shipton told Global News. “Now, more than ever, we need to be walking the talk of diversity, equality and inclusion.”

Wells said diversity and inclusion need to be actively fostered and nurtured.

“We see hate crimes continuing to rise in Canada and across the world. And sometimes it feels like you’re taking two steps forward and one step backwards when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

“It’s really important that our major social institutions like the Edmonton Oilers and our corporations are all stepping forward to show that diversity and inclusion matter. They’re an important part — not only to our business bottom line, but to the kinds of communities that we’re hoping to create and celebrate,” Wells said.

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“Workplaces don’t magically become safe and inclusive. That requires hard work and having those important conversations, looking at our policies, looking at the kind of culture, the environments that we’re creating, to ensure that they are actually respectful, welcoming and inclusive.”

Wells said he’s excited to have an event downtown that celebrates Pride not just during Pride Month in June, but all year round.

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“Ultimately, this is about allyship and allyship means simply more than words, but actions, and so we really hope that everyone will come out on Saturday.”

Click to play video: 'Oilers pride tape' Oilers pride tape
Oilers pride tape – Jan 24, 2016

Pride Tape is rainbow-coloured, professional-grade hockey tape that shows support for LGBTQ youth in sports. It’s a local initiative that began as a Kickstarter campaign that grew exponentially when Oilers players started using it.

“Pride Tape is an Edmonton-born initiative kick-started thanks to the generosity of the Oilers,” said co-creator Jeff McLean.

“It was created as a badge of support from the hockey world to the LGBTQ2S+ community that helps amplify the important message that hockey is for everyone.”

Read more: Oilers to become first NHL team to use Pride Tape

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In addition to the game, the event will also have live entertainment, Oilers alumni, fan-favourite food, cold beverages, adult and family-oriented games, activities and entertainment, and the official presentation of the Pride Cup itself.

Pride Cup ball hockey championship in Edmonton, Aug. 6, 2022. Oilers Entertainment Group

“The reaction has been fantastic,” Shipton said.

“We have a mandate to activate the ICE District Plaza and one of the first community events we wanted to host was something Pride-related to show our support.

“We’ve had really good support from Oilers alumni,” Shipton said, highlighting advocacy work by Ben Scrivens and Andrew Ference.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Rage making hockey more inclusive' Edmonton Rage making hockey more inclusive
Edmonton Rage making hockey more inclusive – Feb 7, 2020

Shipton thinks the combination of Pride, ball hockey and a family-friendly event in the heart of Edmonton on a Saturday afternoon in August will be “a homerun.”

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The OEG is expecting a good crowd and a really fun “and important” event.

Admission to the Pride Cup — and all other Summer SolstICE events in ICE District Plaza — is free of charge, but space is limited so arrive early.

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