Scott Laughton talks about the importance of diversity and inclusion in hockey

This may be an interview about Pride Night, but diversity goes so much deeper.

This afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers host their annual Pride Night game, this year against the Carolina Hurricanes. As a community, these events are incredibly important to us at Broad Street Hockey because we truly believe hockey is for everyone and embrace all hockey fans — no matter what. Yes, even fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins (gross).

Our Steph Driver spoke with Scott Laughton about why Pride Nights are important, hockey culture in general, and how the Flyers are making hockey more inclusive. You can listen to the interview here, the full transcript is below.

Flyers have been quiet about 'Hockey Is For Everyone'

In the past, the Flyers have done the bare, performative minimum on Pride Nights. This year, we wanted to know every single thing they are doing for the LGBTQ+ community. You can read the full press release here, but these are the highlights:

  • Flyers players will use warm-up sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape prior to puck drop, and player sticks will be auctioned off by Flyers Charities following the game.
  • Flyers Charities will present the You Can Play Project with a check for $5,000 to support their work in the greater Philadelphia region to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans.
  • Flyers Charities will be selling Pride-inspired commemorative tickets.
  • The Flyers will also celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Philly Gay News (PGN), opening the game with a ceremonial puck drop with Philly Gay News Founder Mark Segal.
  • The Flyers’ You Can Play ambassadors, left wing James van Riemsdyk and center Scott Laughton, in partnership with the Flyers organization, recently launched a new initiative aimed at growing the game of hockey within the LGBTQ+ community. Through the program, Laughton and van Riemsdyk will provide four game tickets to select local LGBTQ+ organizations for 12 home games during the rest of the 2021-2022 season. In addition to the tickets, the players will provide these special guests with Flyers gear and a signed puck.
  • The Flyers will provide complimentary tickets for the Pride Night game to the following LGBTQ+ organizations: AIDS Fund Philly, The Attic Youth Center, Galaei, Independence Business Alliance, Mazzoni Center, Philly Black Pride, The Philadelphia Falcons, Philadelphia FIGHT, The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, Stonewall Sports Philadelphia, William Way LGBTQ Community Center, and You Can Play.
  • As part of their efforts to make the in-arena experience as welcoming as possible, the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers released an enhanced Code of Conduct in October 2021 which includes “do not use offensive language or gestures concerning a person’s race, ethnicity, color, gender, religion, creed, ability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, or national origin.”/

Is this enough? No. But it is better than what they have done in the past. There has been little to no promotion of this game, not even to mention it is being played at 3pm on a Monday. LGBTQ+ fans deserve to be celebrated and enthusiastically embraced as we all create a safer environment for everyone to be exactly who they are.

It seems Scott Laughton gets that.

Steph Driver: This is Steph Driver from Broad Street Hockey. Today I’m joined by Scott Laughton, who is the Flyers You Can Play ambassador as well as the Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador. We spoke specifically about the flyers pride night, which is scheduled for Monday at 3pm. Diversity and Inclusion is something that’s really, really important to me personally. And it’s very important to the Broad street hockey community. So this is something that I don’t take lightly. And we have been very hard on the flyers in the past few years over their treatment of pride night, which is why I wanted to specifically talk about what they’re doing and what the culture is around hockey. Without further ado, Scott Laughton. First things first, can you tell me about the initiative that you and JVR have created around pride night for the Flyers this year?

Scott Laughton: Yeah, I think it was something that we talked about at the start of the year, I think, just trying to make the game a little bit more inclusive, and have different groups come out to different games and get a little bit of a package and shirts and a puck or whatever. But yeah, just to try and at the end of the day, make make the game as welcoming as we can. And I think just something that we wanted to do to try and reach different different people.

Driver: I love that, especially around the welcoming part. Why is that important to you?

Laughton: I think it’s been been big for me ever since I’ve been in the league, just making sure you feel comfortable in your own skin. I think that’s the biggest thing is to feel welcome. And I think if you can make this game more inclusive, and doesn’t matter what skin color, or what, who you love, at the end of the day, if you want to play hockey, you should be able to and I think that’s the biggest part of it.

Driver: So fighting for Diversity and Inclusion isn’t directly linked to hockey. Growing up, did you ever see yourself as this type of role model?

Laughton: Um, I think I’ve been around it all my life. So I think it’s something that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. And I think that You Can Play team, when I was starting out, was just getting going as well. So I tried to be a part of that as soon as I got in the league, and then just as the years have gone on, tried to play a bigger role in it. And it’s kind of went from there.

Driver: Yeah, so inclusion very important to the Broad Street Hockey community. And I know that you’ve been the Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador and the You Can Play ambassador for the Flyers. So obviously, this is important to you, too. Was there a moment in your career where you noticed there’s there’s absolutely a need for change?

Laughton: I don’t think there was one direct moment, I would say. I think, just as you go around, and I think over the years, it’s it’s definitely gotten better. And I think we still have a ways to go. But just certain things like different language to use and things like that around the rink and around the locker room. So I think our team has done a really good job of that this this year in the last couple years of just being aware of your surroundings and knowing what you’re saying, can really affect people. So I think that’s one of the biggest things.

Driver: I’m glad that you said that because that leads into my next couple of questions. So I think that you could you’ve seen that, you know, guys can say the right thing to the media, but not necessarily carry that through to the locker room and on the ice. Do you feel like the culture in the locker room for the Flyers is going fighting for change and fighting to be inclusive?

Laughton: I think so. And yeah, ever since, honestly, ever since I’ve been here I’ve seen it change slowly over the years. But I think the last couple of years have has definitely brought a ton of change. Not just with the LGBTQ community, but just just in everything. So yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing is once I guess you you know what you’re saying and you know how your words affect people in your locker room, then then you can kind of go spread awareness and kind of make a change.

Driver: Now when you or anybody else sees or hears any type of language that could be homophobic or maybe misogynistic. Is there any action, does somebody step up to the person, is there a conversation that happens?

Laughton: Yeah, I, to be honest, I have never been part of a situation like that here since I’ve been here. I think guys have been really good here. But I’ve definitely been in different settings where language has been used like that. And even I think more in the past, and I think you just have a conversation. I think it’s, it’s, I don’t think it’s out of malice intent. But I think it’s just educating yourself and knowing that, that these things do hurt people. And just to kind of touch on what I said before of just being able to be comfortable in your own skin.

Driver: Traditionally, hockey isn’t necessarily known as the most inclusive sport. And I agree that strides have been made absolutely in the past decade, but it’s still tough for members of the LGBTQ community to feel comfortable. What do you think the Flyers are doing as a whole to make that change in the culture?

Laughton: Yeah, I think, obviously, these these pride nights are huge in our league, I think it brings a ton of awareness to what’s going on. But I think you don’t really need to have a ton of these nights where I think you just have to do it internally of making sure everyone’s educated. And I think you go from that, and then I think it spreads out further. So I think that’s the main thing of just internally as an organization, and as players knowing what to do, and going from there.

Driver: Great. And then the last question, is there anything that you would say to maybe a young LGBTQ fan who’s interested in hockey, but is maybe a little bit nervous to get more involved with the community?

Laughton: Yeah, like, like I, like I said before, I think just I know, it’s tough to come into this culture and feel comfortable, but I think it’s changing in the right way. And you, you see it with different athletes starting to come out now, and I think you’ll see more of it. And I think, to a young kid, I just say, I think the game is going in the right direction and that you should feel comfortable, being able to come on the ice or play whenever you want and I would say that.