ONTARIO, Calif. – The AHL is known for its love of theme nights, from special Halloween and Christmas jerseys, to camo jerseys for military appreciation night, to Nickelodeon night and Spongebob Squarepants jerseys. But tonight, the Ontario Reign are inviting hockey fans to Hockey is for Everyone night, the NHL and AHL’s answer to celebrating hockey fans regardless of gender, sexuality, or race. The Reign will take on the Henderson Silver Knights, with faceoff set for 7:05 pm Pacific time.
This night is perhaps a little more important here than on many other teams, as one of the Reign’s key forwards, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, has more to appreciate about this night than most. Anderson-Dolan and his brother, Dorian, were raised by two mothers, Fran and Nancy. In a sport that simply doesn’t have a lot of openly queer voices, especially in 2017, when Anderson-Dolan started getting scouted for the draft, the Anderson-Dolan family unit are an important part of the Venn diagram that is the hockey community and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.
Last summer, Fran and Nancy took part in Hockey Pride, an initiative spearheaded by Brock McGillis, an openly gay former player and current advocate for queer people in hockey, where they talked about their experience in the sport, both playing themselves and also raising a son who would go on to play in the NHL. It’s a charming interview, but more importantly, it’s a reminder that hockey can be for the LGBT+ community, regardless of the pushback queer people still get from some corners of the hockey world.
As a queer person myself, Hockey is For Everyone (HFIE) nights are always a highlight of the season. I’m secure in my place in both the LGBT community and the hockey community, but even though it’s been eight years since the first HIFE night in the NHL, it’s still reassuring to know that there are people out there who support the way I live my life. As someone who’s been lucky enough to attend multiple HIFE and Pride nights in various leagues both in North America and my home country of England, there’s truly no better feeling than walking into a hockey rink to see everyone decked out in rainbows, and to see the LGBT community being celebrated and shown that we, belong here, and being reassured that we belong here, just like everyone else.
Some teams do it grudgingly, like it’s an obligation they have to get through, but the LA Kings organization seems to go the extra mile, and that trickles down to the Reign’s HIFE game too. With Anderson-Dolan taking the ice for the Reign this weekend, you have to think he’ll be skating with a little more pride in his step, knowing that there’s an entire night designed to celebrate the people who raised him.
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