There has been a general thaw going on in the world of sports, and hockey is leading the way.
The sport known for its ruthless hits and raucous fights is coming out in support of inclusiveness, acceptance and everyone getting along.
Gay Hockey Ohio (a statewide group of players and fans), the Ohio Mayhem (the state’s only gay hockey team) and the Ohio State University men’s hockey team are joining forces to host Pride Night, thought to be a first-of-its kind event for LGBT fans at a Division 1 school.
This won’t be your typical Pride Night in which LGBT fans are recognized with a quick announcement on the public-address or a quick greeting on the scoreboard.
OSU is using the event to start a new movement across its athletics department to promote inclusiveness and end old stereotypes in sports, said Chris Schneider, the senior associate athletics director for sports administration.
Several members of the men’s hockey team, Coach Mark Osiecki and Athletics Director Gene Smith taped a video for a year-old organization called You Can Play, which is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.
It will be shown on the scoreboard during Friday’s game.
Student-athletes from other sports asked to do a video of support, too, when they heard about the effort, Schneider said. It’s already in the works.
“We saw this as an opportunity to do something larger,” Schneider said. “The Pride night is a way for us to reach out and show support for the LGBT community in Columbus, particularly those who are involved in sports either as participants or fans.”
You Can Play has its roots in college and professional hockey. It was founded by Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers who’s the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke.
Patrick Burke’s brother, Brendan, was an athlete and the student manager for Miami University’s men’s hockey team when he came out publicly in 2009. He had started to address many of the same issues surrounding stereotypes in sports but was killed in a car crash in 2010.
When Patrick Burke launched You Can Play in March 2012, now-former Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash was among a group of NHL players who taped a video for the cause.
R.J. Umberger, a Blue Jackets forward who played for OSU during his college career, has been part of a You Can Play video, too.
Patrick Burke said the project aims to dismantle two stereotypes in sports.
The first is that gay men are not athletic.
“The second is that straight athletes are these big dumb meathead jocks that like to walk around shoving kids into lockers,” he said.
Patrick Burke praised OSU athletes and coaches and athletics department officials for embracing Pride Night and supporting its goals.
He’s so impressed he said he might even have to cheer for the Buckeyes on Friday.
And that won’t be easy.
He graduated from Notre Dame.
(Visit the Gay Hockey Ohio website for a link to buy tickets for Friday’s Pride Night. For only $10, you get a lower bowl seat, a 6p pregame social hour in the VIP Boardroom located below section 127, and a post-game skate — bring your own skates — on the Schottenstein Center Ice. Online sales were scheduled to end Monday at noon. Tickets will be available at the door, but they don’t include other Pride Night activities. Parking is free in the lot northwest of The Schott, next to the Bill Davis Baseball Stadium.)