When the Golden Knights stepped on the ice for pregame warmups Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena, their equipment was more colorful than usual.
Multiple players were armed with hockey sticks wrapped in rainbow-colored tape in honor of “You Can Play Night,” which is part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone Month.”
Players carved circles around the pristine ice, shooting pucks into the net with their rainbow-taped sticks. High above the rink the “Knight Line” drummers played their rainbow-lit instruments.
“You Can Play” is a social activism campaign dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports, centered on the slogan, "If you can play, you can play,” and “Hockey is for Everyone” is a league-wide initiative to foster a safe and inclusive environment in the game of hockey regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.
Golden Knights forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was named a player ambassador for the campaign.
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “You hear a lot of disrespect all around the world and we are trying to show that in our sport, and in all sports, that there is no place for that.
“We are a bunch of guys that have come together from different places and we all respect each other and work together for a common goal. That is what sports are all about.”
T-shirts with the Golden Knights wordmark in rainbow colors were sold with all proceeds going to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, and the sticks used in pregame warmups were auctioned off to benefit the “You Can Play Project” in support of LGBTQ athletes.
The crowd at T-Mobile Arena sang both the Canadian and U.S. national anthems prior to the game, without the help of a singer as part of the special night.
Following the game, Bellemare looked around the locker room and pointed out Golden Knights players of Finnish, Swedish, Canadian, Czech, Italian, French and American backgrounds, while saying it shows hockey is for everyone.
“I come from a country (France) where hockey is not the biggest sport,” he said. “I could have gone a different way in my life but because of hockey I’m here.”