NHL Pride Night in New Jersey (Story)
This month is Pride Month in the NHL and every team in the league is hosting their own Pride Night to celebrate equality within the sport. Our friend Joe Altenau, the Director of Event Operations at the Prudential Center (where the New Jersey Devils play), was a big part of planning their Pride Night out for the east coast team.
Read how Pride Night has impacted Joe's life and how their message of acceptance is being received by hockey fans:
Planning for Pride Night is one of the more stressful times of the year. Finding meaningful ways to connect with the LGBTQ community through the Hockey Is For Everyone campaign is a highlight of the year but requires meticulous planning. For me, Pride Night is not just about changing the color of the logo to Pride colors but rather an opportunity to have engaging conversations with everyone about what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community.
This year we were very fortunate that Harrison Browne (first transgender athlete in North American hockey) was available to speak at our pregame reception. This event created a safe space for those who may still be coming to terms with their own sexuality in an arena that they may not have always felt welcome in the past. Hearing Harrison’s story about accepting yourself for who you are was incredibly moving.
Pride Night also allows numerous other LGBTQ organizations to use the Hockey is For Everyone platform to share their message of acceptance. We hosted Garden State Equality (beneficiary of our 50/50 raffle), NYC Gay Hockey Association (hosted their mini tournament on the main ice after Pride Night as part of the group sale they arranged), You Can Play (beneficiary of the auction for the warm up sticks wrapped with Pride Tape) and Newark Gay Pride (portion of ticket sales from their ticket allocation went back to the organization). Having these incredible partners recognized on the concourse and during the game helped reinforce to everyone in the arena that it’s ok to be who you are.
The most meaningful part of the night for me was watching the entire arena give a standing ovation to a Bronze Star recipient and 30 year veteran of the US Army, Sergeant Major Jennifer Marie Long. Jennifer spearheaded a movement to legally change her name and paved the way for other transgender members of the military.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of hate in this world (and to be sure, that came out on social media leading up to our Pride Night) but at that moment there was nothing but love and support for a veteran who served her country. At that moment I couldn’t be more proud to have been a Devils fan and thankful for the platform the NHL has to push #HockeyIsForEveryone.