The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Assn. on Thursday announced they have formed a partnership with the You Can Play project, which promotes respect for athletes regardless of their sexual orientation.
The league and the players’ association have made a commitment to educate and train players, teams, media and fans that players should be judged for their abilities, not their sexual orientation, and that locker rooms should be inclusive. Many professional and college teams have supported the organization, and many NHL players have appeared in public service announcements that condemn homophobia.
You Can Play was started by Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and son of longtime NHL executive Brian Burke, in honor of his brother Brendan, who was the manager of the Miami University (Ohio) hockey team and came out as gay. Brendan Burke died in a car accident in 2010.
The NHL is the first major professional North American sports league to formalize a policy regarding homophobia.
“Our motto is ‘Hockey is for Everyone,’ and your partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“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’ Assn. that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.”
The agreement announced Thursday was the product of months of discussions among representatives of You Can Play, the NHL and the NHLPA.
“In talking to the guys and the rest of it, I think the basic thing was this was the right thing to do, we ought to go do it,” Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, said in a telephone interview. “And that’s the motivation. You do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
We’ll have more on this later, including comments from Patrick Burke.