NHL partners with You Can Play Project

April 12, 2013, by

The biggest news of the season, and possibly the year, occurred yesterday as the NHL has partnered with the You Can Play Project. For those unfamiliar with YCP, it is a foundation started by Patrik Burke (son of Brian Burke, brother of the late Brendan Burke) that delivers the message of tolerance and education on LGBT issues in sports.

This partnership is the first of its kind between a professional sports league and a LGBT program, and represents a significant step in the right direction for tolerance. Over the past year, several players have made videos in support of the project, but those were done without connection to the league. With the league fully on-board, the YCP Project will continue to make strides.

Kudos to the NHL and the NHLPA. You can read the full press release after the jump.

NEW YORK / TORONTO — The National Hockey League Players’ Association and the National Hockey League today announced a historic partnership with the You Can Play Project that formalizes and advances their long-standing commitment to make the NHL the most inclusive professional sports league in the world.

“The NHL sets the standard for professional sports when it comes to LGBT outreach and we are incredibly grateful for their help and support,” said Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, the founder of the You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that fights homophobia in sports. “We will work with League and NHLPA officials, teams and players to ensure that we create a more inclusive hockey community at all levels.”

Said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: “Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. 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.”

“NHL players have supported the You Can Play Project since its inception, which we are pleased to formalize and expand upon with today’s announcement,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director. “The players believe our partnership with the NHL and You Can Play will foster an inclusive hockey environment from the grassroots level to the professional ranks.”

The official partnership with You Can Play includes a significant commitment to education and training for teams, players, media and fans plus the production and broadcast of more public service announcements.

“As NHL players, we all strive to contribute towards helping our teams achieve success on the ice. Any player who can help in those efforts should be welcomed as a teammate,” said Ron Hainsey, Winnipeg Jets defenseman and NHLPA Executive Board member. “This partnership solidifies the message that the hockey community believes in fairness and equality for everyone.”

You Can Play will conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium to educate young prospects on LGBT issues. In addition, You Can Play will make its resources and personnel available to each individual team as desired.

The NHLPA and NHL also will work with You Can Play to integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program, enabling players to confidentially seek counseling or simply ask questions regarding matters of sexual orientation.

The You Can Play Project, founded by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, celebrated its one year anniversary on March 4, 2013. From its inception, it has had tremendous support from the hockey community and beyond. Professional players Tommy Wingels and Andy Miele, and former NHL General Manager Brian Burke all serve on You Can Play’s Advisory Board. Over 100 professional hockey players have voiced their support for gay teammates and have been joined by athletes from numerous sports representing approximately 20 NCAA organizations.

Categories : Around the League


  1. VinceR says:

    Really happy the league and PA did this. Helps make up a little bit for the jackassery that occurred August-mid January.

    I believe MLS already has a partnership, but looking at you NBA, MLB, and NFL….

  2. PAL says:

    The whitest sport in America is pursuing inclusivity by tolerating transgender players in its ranks? How many transgender players are there? Will there ever be?
    No offense, but this 3% of the population (ie lgbt) is much smaller than the percentage of Latinos and blacks in America, who are much more underrepresented in hockey. The focus should be on those groups.

    • Dave says:

      Are you seriously against this?

      • PAL says:

        No I am not really against this. I treat everyone equally, and expect everyone to treat each other with the respect all people deserve. But I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if I did not immediately jump on the nationally-required pc bandwagon right away. Apologies to all.

    • VinceR says:

      PAL, it is for gay athletes too. And while blacks and latinos are under represented, they are represented while gay players have 0% open representation.

      The NHL/teams also already has programs in place to reach out to minorities for more participation. Bettman has said himself he is dissatisfied with minority representation in the sport and is encouraging programs in each NHL city to reach out (just in fact read an article from 2007 making sure I wasn’t making stuff up).

      But those barriers have at least been broken in the NHL. The gay barrier has not. This program is to ensure the right steps are in place for when that happens.

      As a Huff Po headline stated yeserday “NHL Skates to Where The Puck Is Going To Be”.

  3. Justin says:

    Quality move by the league. And PAL, its not about recruiting members of the LGBT community to the game, its about allowing them to feel accepted and unstigmatized by it. Its embracing a community of people with open arms, and its a good thing.

    The subject of underrepresentation of black and latino athletes in hockey is an entirely different discussion with different relevant factors. Climate, cost, lack of mainstream minority participation are all hurdles of recruiting black and latino athletes. Apples to Oranges.

    • Dave says:

      Who the hell gave this a thumbs down?

      • VinceR says:

        Every board has its mouth-breathing Neanderthals…but I am actually hoping this was an accidental press, it happens to me while scrolling about sometimes.

  4. Sally says:

    Kudos to the Burkes for taking their tragedy and making something meaningful. Change doesn’t come overnight, but this is a step in the right direction.

  5. Chris F says:

    What is the purpose of the YCP Project?

    It’s not, as one commenter suggested, an iniative to provide representation for LGBT players. Nor should it be. Players shouldn’t be represented by their personal identity, that creates more division. They should be represented as players, and they already are by the NHLPA.

    So, what is the purpose? Is it to put pressure on players to make public statements in support of a non-hockey social issue that they may or may not actually be supportive of? Is the league going to institute sensitivity training?

    Or, is this all just a bunch of marketing fan-fare to improve the league’s image outside the traditional hockey market?

    I just don’t get it. It seems, at best, a lot of talk aimed at bolstering the league’s image, while doing nothing about the situation among players. On the other hand, there isn’t much the league can do to change the culture without overstepping its bounds and forcing professional hockey players to wade into a social issue.

    Maybe, I’m missing something. But I don’t like this sort of politicized, top-down pontification in sports.

    Any changes in the culture and player attitudes has to come from the bottom or else it’s fraudulent.

    • Justin says:

      I don’t think its about changing a culture, Chris. I haven’t heard or seen anything that would make me think the NHL has an affirmative problem with accepting homosexual players.

      I think its more of a statement to both the homosexual community and the world, that hockey players and the NHL are tolerant and supportive of LGBT players. Many times, it helps with outreach and allowing discriminated group to feel included and passionate about this wonderful game of ours.

      • VinceR says:

        I think it’s also to prepare players and those in the league (and even fans somewhat) to the idea of gay players, in the case an openly gay player joins the league or an existing player comes out.

        But generally, as the slogan goes, it’s if you can play, you can play. It’s just stating openness to all walks of life to the sport. If you are good enough, you are good enough…it doesn’t matter if you are straight, closeted, openly gay, etc.

        The league partnership is to say, this is also NHL policy and discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated.

        • Sally says:

          Well stated Vince.

          • Chris F says:

            While I can appreciate your perspectives, I still find myself a little puzzled, for if there is no cultural or attitude problem within the League on this issue, then there appears little cause for the League, on an official level, to wade into such a hot-button social issue, no?

            There are many social issues that detrimentally affect groups of people in our society. Not one of them is relevant to the world of hockey, until it is. And if there isn’t some problem of acceptance within hockey, then, again, I ask what is the point of this except as a marketing campaign for the League?

            • Chris F says:

              Disclaimer: I’m not attempting to instigate some debate on the issues of homosexuality within our society; this really isn’t the place for that, so I’d hope I won’t get lambasted as a “mouth-breathing Neanderthal.”

              I am, however, questioning the relevance of this issue within hockey, and I suppose the relevance to this blog, which almost painfully avoids posting on league generalizations not explicitly relevant to the Rangers, with the exception of a few more overview, non-Rangers focused pieces on offensive/defensive strategies, the lock-out and the trade deadline.

              • Justin says:

                You make a fair point, Chris. I think the fact that Brendan Burke is the son of a high profile figure within the professional hockey community has helped move this issue to the forefront. Also, I think with the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on DOMA and Prop 8, the country is squarely centered on this issue, and because of that it makes sense from a marketing perspective.

                When a person or an organization leads the way on an initiative (in this case, a pro sports league) the relevance or timing is always going to be questioned. However, I think since the gay rights issues are really coming to a head, and the country (for the most part) has come out in support of this type of equality, it serves the NHL to be on the record in a positive way, plus helping ease stigma and discrimination, while extending good will.