Statistically speaking, Trevor van Riemsdyk has almost certainly had a gay teammate at some level, if not every level. But he’s never had an openly gay teammate. The idea behind the You Can Play Project is that in the future — hopefully sometime very soon — players won’t have to hide part of who they are just to be accepted in the dressing room.
Van Riemsdyk believes that time is already here.
“I don’t think it would be an issue,” the Blackhawks defenseman and the team’s designated LGBTQ ambassador said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be in some awesome locker rooms, and it’s nothing but fun. Just from my personal experience, I think I could safely say that it’d be accepting. … You pride yourself on making the locker room a place where everyone wants to come and feels good about being there.”
The Hawks are hosting “Hockey is for Everyone” night Saturday against the Oilers, a league-wide initiative aimed at making hockey more inclusive for all people. Players will use rainbow-colored “pride tape” on their equipment during warmups and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, Center on Halsted and Hockey On Your Block groups will be represented on the concourse throughout the game. And on March 2, the Hawks will host a private screening of “Soul on Ice: Past, Present and Future,” for Hockey On Your Block students at Harper Theater in Hyde Park. The film highlights the contributions and tribulations of black hockey players.
Van Riemsdyk volunteered to be the Hawks’ LGBTQ ambassador, following in the footsteps of his older brother, James, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ representative. The position is largely ceremonial, but will involve some appearances in the community as a public face for the promotion.
Trevor van Riemsdyk, who did similar work for inclusion at the University of New Hampshire, said the You Can Play initiative shows how progressive the sport is.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I think it goes a long way … to have people know that the locker room is a place for everyone, and you’re going to feel included. As long as you’ve got a love for hockey, you’ll be accepted here. So, it’s awesome that they’re taking this initiative and it’s great to be part of a league that’s doing that.”