Colorado Avalanche Hockey Is For Everyone Night Is Non-Event

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 16: Ryan Graves #27 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a face-off against the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center on February 16, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. The Blues defeated the Avalanche 3-0. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 16: Ryan Graves #27 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a face-off against the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center on February 16, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. The Blues defeated the Avalanche 3-0. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

On Saturday the Colorado Avalanche held their annual Hockey is for Everyone night. This may have come as a surprise to some people as the event was barely mentioned.

Every year each NHL team has a dedicated Hockey is for Everyone night and on Saturday the Colorado Avalanche had theirs. Most of them take place in the month of February, with a few teams having theirs earlier or later. The purpose of the night, according to the NHL’s website, is to ‘[use] the game of hockey – and the League’s global influence – to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities’.

Generally teams will incorporate a variety of items into their nights, usually focusing on individuals connected with local charities that support minority groups. Most teams (although generally not all players) will use Pride Tape on their sticks during warm ups and then auction them off after the game to raise money for charity. To the best of my knowledge it is league mandated that all teams must have a Hockey is for Everyone night, but what form it takes, and the level of involvement is generally up to the team.

This year the Winnipeg Jets had special jerseys made to support You Can Play, an organisation ‘dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity’.

The Ottawa Senators made a series of graphics promoting love regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation ahead of their Hockey is for Everyone night (which they branded as Love is Love Night)

The day after their Hockey is for Everyone game a couple of the players and the general manager took part in Ottawa’s Winter Pride event.

The Colorado Avalanche are generally excellent at social media. There’s a reason I write about their social media content every week. They are thoughtful, engaging, and make sure their events are promoted in interesting and fun ways. So I was genuinely surprised that an event on their calendar was being given no attention.

The date was listed on the Hockey is for Everyone page for those who cared to go looking for it, and You Can Play promoted it a couple of times on their own account but from the official team channels there was nothing.

When the game day rolled around it might as well have been any other game. The only mention of it being anything different on the team’s social media were a couple of tweets with photos of some of the players using Pride Tape during warm ups.

Those two tweets  and a single Instagram post were the entirety of their social media posts for the event. After that it was business as usual.

Colin Wilson, who is  the Hockey is for Everyone ambassador for the Avalanche this year, sadly had to miss the game due to injury. He did, however, send a message to a fan who told him he was missed. It’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s something.

Given how well all the other Avalanche events are promoted I can only assume that skimming over Hockey is for Everyone was a deliberate decision by someone in the marketing and communications team, especially considering the fact that last year there was a slew of tweets during the Hockey is for Everyone game.

What stands out from these tweets is that there is no mention of You Can Play or any other LGBTQ initiatives. The tweet with the photos of players using Pride Tape is the only one without any accompanying text. In short they’re playing it safe by choosing very specific areas to focus on and blatantly ignoring others.

Similarly, if you look at the Avalanche Community Events page, there is no mention of LGBTQ groups or anything about trying to make hockey more racially inclusive. Hockey, it would appear, is not actually for everyone.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, I find this is incredibly disappointing. Despite the NHL’s declaration of principals and partnership with You Can Play there is still very little being done to make hockey an inclusive and safe place for LGBTQ people. Hockey is the only one of the four major sports in North America with no openly out players on the current or former rosters. Players who use homophobic language are given a rap on the knuckles and made a Hockey is for Everyone ambassador.

Anders Nilsson, speaking to Swedish hockey news site Aftonbladet last year explained why he thinks there are no openly out NHL or former NHL players (his comments have been translated by Reddit user u/monkeycalculator)

“If I were homosexual, I’d quit playing hockey in my teens. When people say there’s three to four homosexual people in each team, I think, ‘No, absolutely not. They quit when they were children.’”

He goes on to describe the homophobia he witnessed as a kid.

Hockey is for Everyone night should be the one night of the year where the hockey teams we love and support send that love and support back. It’s a time for them to tell us that we’re seen and that we’re valid, not in spite of our sexual orientations but because of it.

I don’t necessarily believe that the Avalanche organization doesn’t care about LGBTQ people, or non-white people but I do think they care about not rocking the boat by discussing anything that might be seen as divisive. It’s just easier for them to pretend that homophobia and racism in hockey don’t exist.

Next. Evaluating Hockey is for Everyone. dark

I am used to disappointment at this point, and have learned not to expect anything major from the Colorado Avalanche on Hockey is for Everyone night. But the fact that this year’s event is a major step backwards in terms of promotion or acknowledgement hurts. I don’t expect overnight miracles, but a little bit of growth each year would be nice. At this point the only way the team could go any further backwards would be to not mention the event at all.