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Oilers ready to gear up for Pride night, say 'Hockey is for everyone'

Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman (18) and centre Connor McDavid (97) celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with teammates during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, Mar. 11, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston) Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman (18) and centre Connor McDavid (97) celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with teammates during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, Mar. 11, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston)
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Players with the Edmonton Oilers say they are committed to celebrating Pride on Saturday night when they take on the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place.

Captain Connor McDavid and right winger Zach Hyman both said they strongly support the team's participation in Pride events.

"It's important to show that hockey players care and we're inclusive," Hyman told reporters Friday. "I just think it's just extremely important that we make hockey a welcoming environment for everyone and tomorrow's a good night to be able to show that.

"Taping your stick is a small thing you can do to show your support."

The comments come amid recent high-profile decisions by some NHL members to not wear Pride-themed jerseys during warm up. That includes the entire Chicago Blackhawks team who said the decision was made over safety concerns for Russian players.

"I certainly can't comment on another player and their beliefs and other organizations and what they're up to, [but] I know here in Edmonton we strongly believe hockey is for everyone and strongly support Pride night," McDavid said. "I look forward to it."

Other players in the NHL have refused to don the Pride jerseys because of religious reasons. Hyman said he disagrees with those decisions and thinks gearing up for Pride night is a "no-brainer."

"If I was in that position, I'd wear one. It doesn't go against any of my beliefs," Hyman said. "On the contrary, I think it's extremely important to be open and welcoming to that greater community. . . and to show that we care and that we're willing and ready to include them."

The Oilers were the first team in the NHL to use Pride tape, and have been using the sticky stuff since 2016. On Saturday the team will decorate their sticks with the wrap for their pregame warm up, to be auctioned off at a later date.

The proceeds from the Pride sticks, as well as Saturday night's 50-50, will be donated to MacEwan University's Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

A number of local LGBTQ2S+ community leaders will also be attending the game, and will head onto the ice for the national anthem.

"This night is [about] recognizing the work of the community leaders who have dedicated much of their lives to shifting the paradigm of diversity, equity and inclusion," said Tim Shipton, EVP of the Oilers Entertainment Group, in a press release. "This is about honouring the true heroes of this story, and it is thanks to them that one day kids of any identity or background will be able to grow up in Oil Country proud of who they are and who they love without fear of exclusion or abuse." 

With files from the Associated Press

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