It was Pride Night at the Wells Fargo Center when the Flyers showcased their own victory to take pride in with a 3-2 win over the league-best Capitals.
But stepping outside of the typical narrative, this night was a prime example to help define the phrase, "It's more than a game."
The Flyers and the rest of the NHL, in partnership with You Can Play, have been able to put together pride nights throughout the entire league.
You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, and only by what they contribute to the sport or their team's success.
You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete's skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.
-You Can Play's mission statement
Throughout the night, the Flyers media team showcased many different elements to putting this together. For warmups, players were also seen taping their sticks with pride tape.
Kurtis Gabriel, a forward on the Flyers' AHL affiliate team, has used this pride tape throughout the entire season. A small notion like this can spark the narrative to see what else the players and league can possibly do to show their support.
This was a night of inclusion. A night of feeling like one belongs in an environment they may not feel accepted in otherwise. I prompted my Twitter followers to describe, in their words, the importance of a night like this. These were some of the responses I received:
Pride Night is important to me because, as a straight woman, I want to make hockey a safe and welcoming place for EVERYONE! no matter who you love, how you identify, I want hockey to feel like home, no matter who you cheer for, and I will do all I can to make it such.
— Rebecca Werez 💜 (@BroadStBecky) January 8, 2020
Cause its double tough being queer and a POC fan in this league and any support makes me feel a lot less invisible.
— Marce (@marce9_) January 9, 2020
For me, a lifelong fan who is also a gay male, seeing players wear tape or march in parades means the most to me. I've put so much of my own support behind these players and this team, those simple actions tell me that it is not only appreciated - but also that they support me.
— #OskarStrong (@flyers_canada23) January 9, 2020
There were also those who wanted to share their stories, their moments, what a night like this means to them - but wished to do so anonymously.
"But I'm bisexual and sexuality has always been something that's hard for me. And the fact that hockey can almost accept me even on days I can't means so much to me. Hockey has always been my escape and this just emphasizes how much hockey means to me. Because they take the time to show that hockey is for everyone. And knowing that I'm not alone, seeing all of the fans who support the LGBTQ+ community, or who are apart of the community themselves, is so validating."
"It validates my authentic self."
"Pride night is very important at a professional level, especially for the younger audiences watching. It lets everyone know that no matter who they are, it shouldn't hold them back from doing what they want to do. It shows that no matter who you are, you will be supported."
I feel as though it's also important to note that I am an ally, if it wasn't already obvious. I believe a night like this is important for the growth of the LGBTQ+ community - and to know the NHL recognizes the importance of this as well is a crucial step in pushing forward. Everyone deserves to be accepted for who they are, no matter who they love. And these nights are to help those who may not believe it otherwise, know they are surrounded by support and are not alone. To grow the community, so that one day, a night like this won't even be necessary - because everyone will be accepted for who they are.
You've made it this far, so just remember the Golden Rule that you learned in kindergarten - treat others the way you want to be treated.
It's quite simple when it's broken down as such, don't you think? However, there are still ways to go. But every single step, no matter how small, is a step closer to where we hope to be in the future.
It's more than just a game. Never forget that.
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