It’s only been a year, and already Pride Tape has grown from an idea to a global phenomenon.
Inspired by Dr. Kristopher Wells (University of Alberta) of Jeff McLean of Calder Bateman Communications and as a way to promote inclusivity in sport, Pride Tape has become a statement for a league that remains the only major professional sports league to have never had an openly gay player, past or present.
February is “Hockey Is For Everyone” month, and the NHL is aiming to increase the dialogue around LGBTQ+ players. It’s not just a matter of acceptance — it’s about changing the conversation. Many NHLers, including Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, have said their clubs would definitely support a teammate if they were to come out as gay.
“Hockey Is For Everyone” month features a number of initiatives, including designating a player as a “You Can Play” ambassador for each team, and celebrating inclusivity during a home game.
For example, you may have seen the Vancouver Canucks unveil their special-edition warm-up sweaters, which they’ll wear later this month, or the Pittsburgh Penguins sport Pride Tape during a recent game.
So, how did such a simple statement like wrapping your hockey stick with rainbow tape turn into a month-long celebration and global initiative? We spoke with Wells and McLean in Edmonton to find out where it all began.
Social media has changed the way we communicate and how information is spread— both on the positive and negative sides of spectrum. It can be a source of support and friendship, but can also be a world of anger and spite. Fortunately for Wells and McLean, a tweet from Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference in 2015 was a diamond in the rough that set off a chain of events that would shape the vision and mission of Pride Tape.
As a You Can Play Ambassador and the first NHL captain to march in a Pride Parade, Ference immediately understood what Wells and McLean were looking to do. From there, with backing from a prominent NHL player, the company was able to work with manufacturers to design and create a professional-grade product that everyone would want to use.
And while they were met with some hesitation from manufacturers in the beginning due to the complex logistics of printing a six-colour tape (no easy feat!), that was immediately erased once it was clear what Pride Tape was aiming to do.
One thing to note about the creation of this product is that at no point did Wells or McLean hide what they were doing. They were bold, honest and brave in their mission to tackle homophobia in sport.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way—and this team has found a way.
It’s been quite a year for Pride Tape, and the roller-coaster ride shows no signs of stopping. With orders coming in from Spain, Germany and around the world, the conversation is evolving. Not only is hockey for everyone, but sport is for everyone—and whether you show your pride with tape, a jersey, laces, or simply in your battle cry, you can know that there is a community that stands with you. We are all allies, and as such we have a responsibility to amplify the voices of the underrepresented. Everyone is different, but we are united in our passion for hockey—from the grassroots level to the majors.
With help from Pride Tape, the NHL, You Can Play, and many other organizations, we challenge you to grow the conversation not just on the ice but in locker rooms, schools, and communities, and to accept and celebrate everyone for who they are. From Edmonton to the world, Pride Tape helps send a global message that symbolizes so much more.