One phrase has been very common for the past few weeks, or even months: “it’s 2017.” It’s not just to alert people of the current year, although that would probably be better than the reason why we use it now. It’s often used as a preface to horrible things happening in the world. It’s 2017, and white supremacist groups still exist. It’s 2017, and sexism is still present in everyday life. Most relevant in the hockey community as of late: it’s 2017…and sports are still not completely inclusive.
The reason why this is so relevant is because the location for the 2018 Draft has finally been announced: Dallas, home of the Stars. On the surface, this seems to be a great accomplishment for both the city of Dallas and the Stars, since they’ve never hosted the NHL draft before. The Stars are backed up by a huge, passionate fanbase, and the future seems to be bright for them with amazingly skilled players like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The picture seems perfect, but there is controversy surrounding the draft and the city itself. Why? Let’s get into it.
The Texas House of Representatives has been considering various “bathroom bills” for the past few months. One has even overwhelmingly passed through the state senate, and governor Greg Abbott has eagerly vowed to sign the bill when the time comes.
Before we continue, what exactly is a “bathroom bill?” A bathroom bill is defined as legislation that gives or, more commonly, takes away access to public facilities (usually bathrooms) regarding transgender individuals. This is an obviously discriminatory concept, and it’s insane that it’s even being talked about. Many people have spoken out against the potential law, including the You Can Play Project and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair. Once it was announced that Dallas would hold the 2018 NHL draft, it became even more of a hot topic. This idea goes against everything that the modern-day world, specifically the NHL, has been working towards recently.
Last season (2016-2017), the NHL began working with the You Can Play Project (YCP). They are huge advocates for the LGBT+ community and minorities in general in sports communities. As they always say, “if you can play, you can play.” In support of YCP, players wrapped their sticks in rainbow tape, the colors of the LGBT+ pride flag, and participated in “Pride Nights” across the league during games. Each team selected an ambassador for these nights, someone who was willing to support the cause and speak out on why it’s important. Among these ambassadors were Mats Zuccarello, Frans Nielsen, and Gabriel Landeskog. One of the more notable leaders was Andrew Shaw, a player known for his use of a homophobic slur against another player during the 2015-2016 playoffs. He volunteered for this role and looked at it as a chance to spread the word about these issues and learn from his mistakes. About this topic, Shaw said, “I don’t want this to be a bigger story than it is… I want it to be about the program, not about me. I just want to be there to help, and help is what I’m going to give.”
This whole program was recognized as “Hockey Is For Everyone” month and took place last February. Unlike the rest of the league, the Stars did not fully participate in the “pride nights” implemented by the NHL. They did not wrap their sticks in rainbow pride tape, and did not have any rainbow colored graphics on their screens. There were no extended video presentations regarding the theme night like many other teams had used. They only did the complete bare minimum: naming an ambassador and having rainbow logo shirts on the NHL shop website. All of these events of non-inclusivity are what makes the decision to hold next year’s draft in Dallas so puzzling.
So, what does all of this mean for the future? It definitely looks like the NHL won’t be moving the draft from Dallas, as painful as that could be for LGBT+ fans. Hopefully, as time goes on, the league will be able to be more consistent with their support for the community, with the help of fans and the You Can Play Project. Something that many organizations, especially the NHL, need to understand is that a “pride month” isn’t enough to be a good ally. Rainbow tape and shirts are a step in the right direction, but compared to this situation, it’s not enough. It’s 2017, and the NHL needs to step up and support the LGBT+ community in a more constant way. Maybe, in a few months, we’ll be able to say that it’s 2018, and improvements have been made.
Read another Puck It Up article about the 2018 NHL draft in Dallas: https://puckitup.blog/2017/08/01/its-time-for-dallas/