‘You Can Play’

Austin Bruins Puck

AUSTIN, MN — An ad that was released Thursday as part of an announcement made by the National Hockey League was one of a kind.

For the first time in history, a major men’s professional sports league has made inclusion part of its policy after joining forces with a LGBT advocacy group called, “You Can Play.”

They will back that up with educational seminars for rookies and have confidential outreach resources for players.

Same-sex marriage has been a hot topic lately, but another issue hitting the nation is gay players in sports; specifically men’s professional sports. Instead of pushing them away, the NHL is saying come join us.

“Anything that supports diversity is good. There’s a lot of the pro leagues that don’t have any support for players that are different in any way so I think it’s a positive move,” said Darci Christofferson of Owatonna.

As a lifelong fan of hockey, Christofferson says this has been a long time coming. Those inside the sport agree.

“It really is the right thing to do. In today’s society it just comes down to, it’s bigotry. Why? Why do we have to have that in today’s society?” said Jamie Huffman, Head Coach of the Austin Bruins.

For a hockey coach like Huffman, it means a lot for the faces of the league to take the stand.

“Stereotypically for everybody, they think hockey and they think the fights and they think the big tough guys so I think it’s huge that the players union came out and did it,” Huffman said, “That’s where it really has its mark, its impact, it’s because it does come from the players.”

While it may be a bigger deal for the older NHL players, Huffman says for his young players when the puck drops they are all a team.

“When we go out there on the ice, we’re family, that’s just it, it doesn’t matter. In a way it can be overblown, for us it doesn’t matter,” Huffman said, “If you can play hockey and you’re part of it, and you work hard, come on board, welcome home, that’s it.”

It may just be about hockey now, but their long term goal is to make sure everyone is treated the same, no matter who they are as a person.

Christofferson says she can see the other major sports leagues following suit in the near future. She predicts within five years all major leagues will be accepting.

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