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You Can Play Night

Stopping homophobia in sport is a team effort.

As I write this, an order for 18 Roll Team Pack from Austria comes in to That’s the power of a strong, simple idea propelled forward by many passionate individuals. It also symbolizes the true meaning of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” month—a month of global awareness meant to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities—showing support for safe, positive, and inclusive environments for players and families regardless of their race, colour, religion, national origin, gender, disability, and sexual orientation.

This February, 20 NHL Teams are using Pride Tape as part of Hockey is for Everyone month. Tonight, the Edmonton Oilers will skate onto the Rogers Place ice with Pride Tape on their sticks during the warm up of a league game. Pride Tape has come full circle and it’s hard to believe, it was just over a year ago when it all began. 

It all started when we got together with our client partner, Dr. Kris Wells at the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, to tackle the issue of homophobia in sport. It remains a significant issue, especially for young players. LGBTQ youth don’t have many professionals to look up to. And for young hockey players, there are no “out” role models at all. So we set out to change the culture of sport—without a dollar to spend.

For a challenge that impacts so many young lives, a short-term awareness campaign could never do it justice. Rather than creating a local, traditional advertising campaign, we asked ourselves, “What if we could create a badge of support from the hockey world to the LGBTQ community? What if we could make everyone feel welcome on the ice?”

We took a close look at the individual rituals hockey players engage in, as well an inventory of players’ equipment—and nothing was more personal to players than taping their stick.

What emerged was Pride Tape. A simple roll of rainbow tape—and a powerful, lasting badge of support from the hockey world to young gay players.

PrIde Tape

Next, we had to figure out how to get the tape produced. The Calder Bateman team started prototyping the idea using white hockey tape and coloured markers to get the rainbow just right. We knew the quality of the tape was paramount. Without a quality product, the idea would fail. So we pitched Pride Tape to the NHL’s tape producer. Six colour bands in a row had never been done before—but they believed in the cause and found a way to make it happen.

Kickstarter campaign was a key part of the Pride Tape strategy. Kickstarter would accomplish two key goals in one: raising money to get the first run of tape produced while raising awareness for the issue. It’s a platform with the unique ability to create passionate ambassadors who will share the message with conviction across their social networks. It also lent legitimacy to the product, proving that Pride Tape was not just an idea. People recognized that once the Kickstarter campaign was funded, Pride Tape would become a reality.

From there, we needed to add a charitable component to Pride Tape. The product couldn’t be seen as a for-profit venture, otherwise it would lose its symbolic power. While our client, the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, could certainly be one benefactor, we also needed to find a partner with an international presence. So we approached You Can Play—the most prominent organization working towards inclusiveness in sports. They immediately came on board. 

You Can Play has an official partnership with the NHL and NHL Players Association, which led to the next phase of the plan: getting the support of the NHL, its teams, and its players. Once the NHL knew You Can Play was on board, they were in. Prominent executives and coaches like Calgary’s Brian Burke and Edmonton’s Andrew Ference were approached to get involved early on. From there, the Edmonton Oilers were offered the opportunity to take an initiative from their hometown and run with it.

Once the campaign was solidified, we approached television, print and outdoor media outlets to lend their support and help make the Kickstarter a success. It wasn’t hard to convince them that this was a cause worth getting behind. Finally, we reached out to local and international media in the sporting and LGBTQ worlds with the Pride Tape story.

This was news.

Pride Tape Collage

It was just over a year ago when the Edmonton Oilers skated onto the ice for their Skills Competition using a Pride Tape prototype. The Calder Bateman Pride Tape team was in the elevator at Rexall Place, going from the press conference in the media room up to the catwalk. On the monitor in the elevator, we could see all of the Oiler players jumping onto the ice with bright flashes of rainbow coloured tape. At that moment, months of hard work from a large group of passionate people became very real. 

Now the Edmonton Oilers will skate with Pride Tape during a league game warm up. 19 other NHL Teams are using the tape to show that “Hockey is for Everyone” too. Social media channels are lit up with support from thousands of hockey players and supporters from North America, Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.

They’re all using Pride Tape—which is well on its way to stopping homophobia in hockey, one roll at a time.

About the author

Linda Hoang

Linda can navigate the complex, rapidly evolving world of social media and digital strategy like no one else. With sharp insights, she ensures every client makes real connections with their audience in real time  and she does it all with an infectious laugh.

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