Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 4/11/13
About two years ago, then-New York Rangers forward Sean Avery became an unlikely advocate for gay marriage, participating in a commercial for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign. Now, the NHL itself is following suit. On Thursday, the NHL and the Players Association announced an official partnership with You Can Play, furthering the league’s initiatives to “make the NHL the most inclusive professional sports league in the world,” according to a press release. Though the release states that “The NHL becomes the first major American professional sports league to officially partner with an LGBT advocacy group on this scale,” Major League Soccer forged a similar partnership with You Can Play in 2012. The partnership makes sense in a number of ways, most notably that the organization’s co-founder is Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, son of former Ducks and Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. The agreement “includes a significant commitment to education and training for teams, players, media and fans plus the production and broadcast of more public service announcements.” You Can Play will also have a presence at the league’s rookie symposium, in addition to generally making its services available to players. “Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way,” said commissioner Gary Bettman. “While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players’ Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.” Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Hockey Hall of Fame

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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