The Edmonton Oilers are the first NHL team to use Pride Tape, a visual show of support for young LGBTQ players.

As members of the team hit the ice on Sunday for the annual Skills Competition at Rexall Place, their sticks were wrapped in a special rainbow-coloured hockey tape, a noticeable departure from the usual black or white.

Pride Tape is a local initiative spearheaded by the University of Alberta Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services.

“It’s a simple, yet powerful concept…we believe that hockey should include everyone regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” said faculty director Dr. Kristopher Wells.

“Pride Tape brings together two great things – hockey and human rights,” he added.

Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference is a proud supporter of Edmonton’s LGBTQ community and helped launch the campaign in December.

“Small things like this where we can show our support and be allies…hopefully kids won’t have to quit sport and quit hockey [because they are afraid to be themselves in front of their teammates].”

According to Ference, the entire team got behind the idea right away.

“It’s not something that you have to go into the dressing room and twist guys’ arms. Basically [when it was brought up] everyone was on board immediately,” said Ference.

A Kickstarter Campaign was launched to raise the funds needed to produce the first 10,000 rolls of tape. To date, they’ve raised over $45,000 of their $54,000 campaign goal.

“It’s sort of like coming down to the last few minutes of the game and everybody’s furiously trying to get that final goal so we can come out a winner,” said Wells.

If successful, future sales from Pride Tape will go to support LGBTQ youth outreach initiatives.

According to Wells, this means that every roll of tape sold will have an impact both on and off the ice.

“Help us make history and bring Pride Tape to hockey rinks all across the world,” he said.

Ference acknowledged that while he never would have imagined having open conversations about this topic when he first started his career, most people just realize that “it’s the right thing to do” to support it.

The Kickstarter Campaign runs until February 3.

More information can be found online.

With files from Breanna Karstens-Smith