The NHL has declared February #HockeyisforEveryone month! However, a combination of terrible marketing and lackluster events has made the month barely register for Philadelphia Flyers fans.
There's little denial that when it comes to inclusion, the 2016-2017 season has been an important step forward for the NHL. Having each team appoint a YouCanPlay ambassador is impressive. A direct contact from the team to LGBTQ fans! Or it would be impressive if the Flyers had ever mentioned it on any of their social media pages or on their website. Or if any Flyers/YouCanPlay events were lined up at all. So far, it seems like YouCanPlay ambassador is just another title for the Flyers' Claude Giroux.
Scouring the Flyers’ Facebook, Twitter, and main website, I couldn't even find a mention of YouCanPlay, Giroux being an ambassador, or, weirdly enough, #HockeyisforEveryone in general. None at all. (And please, PLEASE, let me know if I missed any mention as I'd happily retract this).
Not only is their former scout, Patrick Burke, the co-founder of YouCanPlay but in 2011, Wayne Simmonds used a homophobic slur on the ice. The Flyers are a team in a significantly LGBTQ-friendly city and they should be on the forefront of an initiative like this! They even were at the front of it during the 2015-2016 season!
When the Flyers announced their YouCanPlay partnership game in January of last season, it was three weeks prior to the game. My excitement took the form of all capital letters in numerous texts & tweets, seeing who would be available to come with me to this Monday night game against the Bruins. Sure, there was no merchandise but $5 from each ticket sale went to YouCanPlay. The theme was announced on the big screen during intermissions and a representative from City Hall's LGBTQ office came to accept a custom jersey! The game was even praised by the YouCanPlay project for being the first (official) one of its kind.
I remember thinking that the game was just the beginning. Last season continued and NHL YouCanPlay merchandise began to appear at the few other YouCanPlay games. Andrew Shaw was suspended and fined for his use of a slur, showing that consequences had actions. The NHL wasn't going to stand for alienating LGBTQ fans.
When the 2016-2017 promotional schedules were released, I wasn't surprised to find that no Pride night was listed on the Flyers calendar. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. I told myself it wasn't a big deal -- I kept thinking, "No, the YouCanPlay game was last minute last season, it'll be last minute this season." After all, it's the NHL and they're not exactly known for their marketing prowess.
A few other teams had their Pride or YouCanPlay nights announced from the very beginning of this season (Devils, Kings, Blues, & Islanders). Then Hockey is for Everyone month was announced and I started to get excited again. A whole month of fun, inclusive events for their diverse fans? "Look! The un-clickable calendar even has the Flyers logo on it nine times," I told myself. However, I started putting the dates into my calendar only to realize that on some of those days, the Flyers weren't even playing.
February started and the #HockeyisforEveryone themed games started rolling out from other NHL teams including women's nights, Hockey 101, and YouCanPlay. Team shirts with rainbow logos went up for sale at the NHL store and I snatched up a Flyers one right away. Still, the only inkling that the Flyers were even aware of the month came in a single tweet from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation’s Twitter.
February has a week left and I have to assume that there will be no Flyers YouCanPlay partnership game this year. Wednesday’s Rivalry Night against the Capitals is supposed to be a national broadcast night for #HockeyisforEveryone but I only know this from the original NHL article from February 1st. I can only assume that, like the Colorado Avalanche’s general #HockeyisforEveryone night, there will be a YouCanPlay table in the Wells Fargo Center but at this point, who knows. I can't find anything on the Flyers website or social media pages to tell me otherwise.
Coincidentally, my Flyers pride shirt arrived today. I’m so pleased I bought it and I love showing my support for YouCanPlay and my fellow LGBTQ fans. I just wish the Flyers would show the same support.