Oilers captain Andrew Ference is making history. He will become the first professional hockey player in Edmonton to march in the city’s 34th annual Pride Parade in support of the gay community. Ference told the Edmonton Journal the decision was “kind of a no-brainer,” adding:
“Making sure that [LGBT] youth know they have allies at the pro level, or whether it’s a teammate who might be thinking about coming out, or whatever it is, we want to make sure that it’s an accepting environment for everyone. I know most of my teammates and guys around the league line up with the same kind of belief.”
It’s true. The NHL is no stranger to the fight for gay rights. In 2011, the New York Rangers Sean Avery became the first athlete to publicly state he favors equal-marriage rights in New York. And earlier this year, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog contributed to the “You Can Play Project” by filming a PSA that promotes diversity and inclusion for all, including the LGBT community. Following that announcement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman gave the movement the NHL’s full support. He said in a statement:
“Young athletes everywhere look up to National Hockey League players as leaders on inclusion. Our players, our Clubs and every member of the NHL family will strive to support important initiatives such as You Can Play in our local communities and around the world.”
With that in mind, then, it is really no surprise that Ference also told the Edmonton Journal that Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish supports his decision to march in the parade, which will take place Saturday.