Colorado Avalanche: Evaluating the Hockey is for Everyone Initiative

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 18: Bernie the mascot of the Colorado Avalanche skates prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center on February 18, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 18: Bernie the mascot of the Colorado Avalanche skates prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center on February 18, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche didn’t put much effort into the Hockey is for Everyone initiative. Nonetheless, at least they’re raising some awareness.

The Colorado Avalanche, along with all the other teams, participated in the Hockey is for Everyone initiative throughout February. The other night marked the last night, with the Pittsburgh Penguins closing out the initiative at home.

The Colorado Avalanche’s game for observing the Hockey is for Everyone initiative was February 18 against the Edmonton Oilers. The team hosted a ceremonial puck drop that included representatives from Colorado Climax, Miracles on Ice, Warrior Avalanche, Team Colorado Girls Hockey, Colorado Blind Hockey, and Denver Prep League Unified Floor Hockey:

Additionally, a couple of the players taped their sticks with the rainbow tape meant to show solidarity with the LBGTQ+ community:

DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 18: Tyson Barrie
DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 18: Tyson Barrie /
colorado avalanche
DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 18: Dominic Toninato /

Earlier, on January 29, rookie Dominic Toninato participated in a hockey clinic for visually impaired aspiring hockey players:

As part of my latest roundtable post, I asked Mile High Sticking writers to evaluate a little bit about the HIFE initiative.

Ross Kleppe likes the idea of an initiative such as HIFE:

I think the premise of HIFE is a fantastic one. Hockey is one of the best sports and my personal favorite and I certainly encourage anyone who wants to get involved with the game, in any capacity, to do it. Only good things can happen if hockey becomes more accessible and welcoming to everyone.

Elizabeth Lovato, my longest-tenured contributor, also appreciates the initiative:
The HIFE initiative is a good way to celebrate diversity using hockey. It’s a way to raise awareness about diversity and providing an inclusive environment, which I think is important.

While it’s not fair to say Tom Janz looks at the initiative with more ambivalence, he certainly isn’t sure what it’s supposed to be achieving:

I am not really sure what Hockey is for Everyone is supposed to be doing. Is it supposed to be political, or just a grassroots movement to spread the game? On paper, spreading hockey to everyone is a great idea. I, obviously, love the sport. I feel like more people would enjoy it, if they were exposed to it more often. ”

The stated purpose of the HIFE initiative is to “drive positive social chance and to foster more inclusive communities.” The goal is to provide “a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.”

To that end, I asked MHS writers to comment on the effectiveness of the initiative.

Lovato appreciated what the NHL is trying to accomplish:

I do think HIFE is effective. It’s helping promote change using hockey and importance of inclusiveness.

Neither Janz nor Kleppe was convinced of HIFE’s effectiveness, though. Janz said of the initiative:

I am all for equality, and I would love to see the game spread, but I have honestly not given any thought to this initiative beyond typing this paragraph. That might answer the ‘is HIFE effective’ question.”

It certainly does. You can’t say you’re raising awareness if you don’t actually raise awareness.

Kleppe went more in-depth:

Certainly not as effective as it could or should be. The NHL and hockey in general does not do itself any favors such as:
1. NHL players not going to the Olympics because of that goofy feud between the NHL and the Olympic Committee.
2. The “World Cup of Hockey” in 2016 only involving like 10 countries total.
3. Continued counts of racism and homophobic slurs not being punished (to their credit, the NHL has been getting better recently).

“Outside of that, I think the real problem with hockey is it’s expensive. Getting kids and parents on board early with how much money goes into equipment, ice time fees, travel and various other expenses is difficult for people of lower socio-economic status. It is much easier for kids who like sports and want to be athletes to pick cheaper sports.

“If you play or have played hockey and have gear you don’t use, donate it. It’s such a big help to those who can’t find brand new equipment at a reasonable price. Search for stores near you that will take your equipment, I promise you it will be a huge help to those kids who otherwise not be able to play.

“HIFE is relatively new, so it will be interesting to see how committed the NHL and hockey in general is to this initiative.”

Kleppe clearly is passionate about growing the sport.

For my next question, I asked the contributors if they thought Hockey is for Everyone goes far enough. Again, Lovato showed appreciation for the initiative:

HIFE is a great start in promoting change and diversity. It may still be a work in progress. But it’s a way to make change.”

Kleppe also appreciated at least what the NHL was trying to do:

Of course it doesn’t, but that for me is to be expected. HIFE is new and hopefully become more effective with time. The big key for me is implementing HIFE early in USA Hockey and Hockey Canada. For so long, “hockey culture” has allowed racial and homophobic
slurs to be tolerated. If this is no longer tolerated from a young age and there are severe punishments, it slowly will bleed into the higher levels of hockey.

“Make a serious effort to grow the womens game too. That I believe is on us as fans, to promote and showcase players like Amanda Kessel and Hillary Knight here in the U.S. and Marie-Philip Poulin in Canada. Also, anyone who tells you the womens game “doesn’t have the intensity level of the mens game’ has clearly never watched a USA v. Canada womens hockey game. Those women straight up hate each other and it makes for excellent games to watch.”

For my final question, I decided to address the elephant in the room. In the current politically charged atmosphere, it’s almost impossible to keep anything aside from the actual play apolitical. So I asked if HIFE could or should be separated from minorities using it as a platform>

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

Janz straight up though it should:

I, honestly, don’t have really strong feelings on this topic. With that said, when I watch a hockey game, I am, at least partially, trying to escape the real world. I don’t really want to be bombarded with anything political.”

Lovato also thinks it can be separated from politics, but for different reasons:

I think HIFE can be spearated because its more of a way of raising awarness.Though HIFE does help start a coversation about diversity.”

Kleppe was a little more philosophical about the question of politics in hockey as related to HIFE:

“This is difficult for sure, I think it should be up to the players / hockey people. There is a large enough racial issue that HIFE can be an effective way to get your viewpoint across, but I don’t think minorities should be vilified for not using it as a platform. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, two of the biggest black athletes of the last few decades, were not outspoken on issues of race. On the flip side, Lebron James is very outspoken about the racial issues. It all depends on the demeanor.

“I appreciate players like P.K. Subban, Joel Ward, Wayne Simmonds, Devante Smith-Pelly and others saying enough is enough when it comes to racial issues in hockey. HIFE should be a good place for them to share their issues and how they believe hockey can be changed for the better. If a minority player does not what to use HIFE or any time as a platform for political issues, I’m ok with that too. If they want to stay out of the spot light and just play hockey, I won’t be critical of them.

For my part, I didn’t mean the question to be only about racial minorities. One of the things all teams do is utilize the rainbow colors, which is symbolic of the LBGTQ+ community.

I’ve also already spoken to all these topics in a separate post:

Related Story: Conflicting Application of HIFE

So, I’m going to comment on how the Colorado Avalanche approached the Hockey is for Everyone initiative. My sociology professor once remarked that the only thing that couldn’t be politicized was ear wax. Well, the Avalanche did a damn good job of making their HIFE so bland, it was essentially ear wax.

They seemed to do the bare minimum. While Bernie skated around with the rainbow flag and a couple of the players taped their warm-up sticks with rainbow tape, that was it for the LBGTQ+ angle.

Their puck drop was all they really did, along with the hockey clinic for the visually impaired. In other words, they mostly focused on people with differing abilities with a little touch of celebrating a few immigrants and veterans.

They focused on a safe definition of who the “everyone” is in Hockey is for Everyone and did the absolute least they could get away with.

And that’s disappointing. Sometimes, when you refuse to make a statement, you end up making a bigger statement — that you’re satisfied with the status quo.

Next: Avs Blueprint for the Immediate Future

Well, I’m going to take a page from Elizabeth’s book and just try to be happy that the Colorado Avalanche and the NHL are making any effort at all.