Earlier this year Wade Davis, the former NFL player who came out as gay after retiring, predicted that the NHL would have the first professional athlete to come out while still playing. If the Vancouver Canucks are any indication than that may very well be the case. If anything is certain it is that the NHL is arguably the most visibly supportive of LGBT inclusion among the major American professional sports leagues. The NHL is home to You Can Play co-founders Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leafs GM, and his son Patrick, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers. You Can Play launched last year with footage of many NHL players expressing their support for equality in hockey, regardless of sexual orientation.
The Vancouver Canucks have gone a step further. The Canucks are already well noted for marching in the Vancouver Pride Parade and for players Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler giving their vocal support to the possibility of a gay player in their locker room. Yet, in a recent home game against the Calgary Flames, the Canucks took even greater strides in promoting LGBT inclusion in hockey by inviting 16-year-old Cory Oskam to skate on the ice with his personal hero and Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider. The teenager says he barely remembers the warm-up and singing of “O Canada” but was fortunate enough to receive a signed pair of hockey pads from Schneider after the game. Cory, who was named Anneke at birth, is currently in the process of transitioning and is the goaltender for the Britannia Hockey Academy. He was invited to skate with the Canucks during the pre-game of their matchup against the Flames as a part of Minor Hockey Week, an attempt by Vancouver to let kids skate alongside their heroes.
The inclusion of Cory into Minor Hockey Week is a great stride by the Vancouver Canucks organization to help promote LGBT inclusion within the NHL and hockey culture in general. His skating on the ice shows that he is a normal kid with normal dreams and aspirations. The fact that Cory Oskam could speak out against anti-LGBT bias at the Dare to Stand Out Student Conference mere days before his experience with the Canucks shows the positive amount of LGBT inclusion and equality that appears to have already taken root within the NHL.