Top-level sport has huge potential to influence attitudes and behaviour. That’s why we despair when a pro soccer player takes a dive and rejoice when a tennis player concedes a disputed point. Athletes’ actions will be imitated and their attitudes set the moral tone for their sport.
So we’ve been delighted to see so much positivity around hockey lately [February 2017] as the NHL embraces the theme “Hockey is for Everyone”™.
The campaign uses the sport and the league’s global influence to (in its words) “drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities”.
The campaign’s microsite states:
We support any teammate, coach or fan who brings heart, energy and passion to the rink. We believe all hockey programs – from professionals to youth organizations – should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.
That may seem to be a statement of the obvious, but it serves as a useful reminder to hockey organisations at all levels – because, although the campaign is NHL-led, it is supported by grassroots bodies Hockey Canada and USA Hockey, as well as social activism campaigns RISE (which campaigns for equality across ethnicities), and You Can Play (which works on behalf of LGBTQ athletes).
Clubs throughout the NHL and well beyond have run special events and the hashtag #HockeyIsForEveryone has been almost everywhere.
Our favourite story around the campaign was the visit of Fatima Al Ali, a hockey player (and coach and referee – and photographer) from the United Arab Emirates, who got to spend time with her heroes, the Washington Capitals, including her favourite player, Alex Ovechkin.
It was a surprise trip for her and her brother, arranged last December by ex-Capitals player Peter Bondra, who met her when visiting Abu Dhabi.
Representatives from 14 different media organisations turned up to watch her join a Caps practice session, and it all seemed highly appropriate, as elsewhere in DC, President Trump’s ban on visitors from certain mainly-Muslim countries was the main talking point.
The Hockey is For Everyone message is also carried through themed merchandise, including rainbow pride hockey tape and rainbow pride team logo T-shirts.
Pics courtesy of Fatima Al Ali.
Looking for help with communications for your sports organisation or organising an event? Get in touch – we’d love to help.