Well, this is just delightful.
On the heels of Patrick Burke's "If You Can Play, You Can Play" campaign, we've now seen a very public affirmation of gay rights and equality in the middle of a hockey game. Very quietly and subtly, I feel like the NHL is taking the lead in tolerance amongst the major North American sports. And it's great to see progress coming from such an unexpected source- a sport dismissed as crude and vulgar, with fans labelled "meatheads".
Of course, I'm not sure the NHL fully deserves that reputation. As I've kinda briefly mentioned before, it's in an odd place in terms of tolerance. While actual hockey players can be just as big of jocks as the guys in any other sports, and while the NHL certainly draws players and fans from small, parochial towns just like every other sport, the fact is, the sport is centered in the more tolerant (At least legally, but probably socially, as well) Canada and mostly northern U.S. cities. This means that front offices, coaches, executives, and hockey pundits all live and work amongst a wider variety of people, and thus, probably pick up some tolerance along the way. The players do so, too, but have the added layer of playing with a large proportion of international players, which just makes them even more open to diversity.
I would not be surprised, in fact, if the NHL was a little bit out ahead of its fan base on social issues. But that's okay, sometimes, you really do have to lead the way. So the NHL's increasingly progressive stance on gay rights is a cause for celebration, not worry.