By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) For a league that often has trouble staying out of its own way, the NHL has been surprisingly successful in leading the steady progress of acceptance of LGBT athletes in the sport. They have been powered in large part by the You Can Play project founded by Patrick Burke, the son of former Maple Leafs general manager Bryan Burke and whose brother, Brendan, was an openly gay activist who died in a car crash at age 21.
The organization has spurred campaigns involving star players on every team and now has achieved the establishment of an official LGBTQ ambassador named by each NHL franchise.
On Saturday night, the Blackhawks will make their own concerted effort to spread the word that all are welcome in the game, hosting a “Hockey is for Everyone” event in conjunction with their matchup against the Oilers at the United Center. You Can Play will be represented on the concourse along with the Chicago Gay Hockey Association and other groups, and the players will sport multicolored “pride tape” on their sticks during warmups.
It’s a significant symbolic gesture, the NHL’s most popular American brand making the statement in both word and deed that they’re proud to have anyone as a teammate.