The union that represents players for the National Hockey League have officially partnered up with the You Can Play Project, which encourages acceptance and understanding of all players regardless of their sexual orientation.
Several college and professional players have participated with the campaign, which was launched by Patrick Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, whose brother Brendan came out months before dying in a car accident in 2010.
"Our motto is 'Hockey Is For Everyone,' and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said according to Outsports. "While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players’ Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands."
You Can Play will also run seminars for players to help them understand LGBT issues better. The organization will also offer confidential counseling for players on sexual orientation.
The NHL is one of the major four that may soon have an openly gay player competing on the field, ice, or court. The NFL has also been working with LGBT groups to charter a plan for whenever the first gay male athlete comes out, and the NBA recently sent a memo to teams reminding them that interviews to draft players should not include questions about religion, race, or sexual orientation, the New York Times reports.
“This has been our policy for years, and we strongly support the N.H.L.’s approach to it, and it’s our fervent hope that this draws less attention, not more, when a player eventually comes out,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said according to the Times.
Andrew Ference, a defenseman for the Boston Bruins, said his team takes a lot of pride in making the locker room feel like a family atmosphere, where a gay player could feel welcome to come out.
"If one of those brothers feels ostracized for what he is, it’s just wrong," he said.