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Eric Alt

Sports

Hockey Scores Big

How the NHL is challenging inclusion in sports culture

Earlier this year, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres hit the ice sporting a little more color than usual. Their signature blue and gold uniforms were well represented, of course, but their sticks (and the sticks of their opponents) now had dashes of orange, yellow, green, purple, and red courtesy of rainbow-colored tape. The message was simple (and displayed on the Jumbotron and hashtagged on social media): You Can Play. The “You” in this instance meant all members of the LGBTQ community, as indicated by the signature rainbow flag nods. The event is just one example of how the National Hockey League has become one of the most progressive professional sports leagues; its focus is not as much on selling its stars as forward-thinking (though that is part of it), but on making the hockey rink a place that’s as warm and inclusive as the ice is cold and hard.

And to think, one of the driving forces behind it all was a gruff old hockey lifer who carried around the word “truculence” like a badge of honor.

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