They’ve played with pride before. But this time, they’ll be playing for Pride.
The Coquitlam Express hockey team recently announced plans to hold the first Pride Night in B.C. Hockey League history – an announcement met with both support and with scorn.
On social media, several users attacked the effort to foster inclusion and acceptance as: “dishonest and despicable,” a “political stunt,” “communist garbage,” a “groomer event,” and mental abuse organized by “globalists.”
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Team general manager Tali Campbell offered a simple solution for disgruntled fans.
“If there’s an individual who believes what we’re doing is not in line with their values or morals, they can return their season tickets and we’ll refund them,” he offered.
Judging by the recent protest and counter-protest surrounding Coquitlam library’s drag show story time, the reaction was somewhat predictable, Campbell said.
“Backlash is something that we knew was going to come. It already has.”
However, the negative reaction was outweighed by messages of support, he added. “For every one negative comment there’s going to be 50 positives.”
It’s critical the Express work to break down barriers so there’s no judgment on or off the ice, according to Campbell.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, there’s probably a few people in junior hockey who are gay and don’t feel that it’s safe to come out to their teammates,” he said.
Pride Night is part of a larger effort to change hockey culture, according to Campbell. At first, those efforts felt “like climbing Mt. Everest,” he said.
But with programs such as the team’s emphasis on mental well-being as well as initiatives like Autism Acceptance Night, Campbell said he thinks the team is making progress.
“Us holding a Pride Night is not going to solve the issues in hockey,” he said. “It’s a step.”
The event is scheduled for Jan. 27 as the Express face off against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. More info here.