GayCalgary® Magazine [copy]

Pioneers on the Ice

Calgary ‘Cs’ New Era of Gay Friendly Puck Handling

Sports by Michael Nguyen (From GayCalgary® Magazine, October 2016, page 36)
Pioneers on the Ice: Calgary ‘Cs’ New Era of Gay Friendly Puck Handling
Pioneers on the Ice: Calgary ‘Cs’ New Era of Gay Friendly Puck Handling

Flames fans embrace the C of red, but it will be rainbows heating up the ice at Winsport Arena, as Calgary joins the growing list of major cities now home to their own gay hockey groups.

The Calgary Gay Hockey Association (CGHA) and Pioneers Hockey are the homegrown intersection between the LGBT and hockey worlds, born from unfortunate circumstance. After coming out to his former teammates, Mike Bell found himself without a team to play with, going into his league’s playoff games. In a place like Alberta – with a typically conservative reputation – it’s not always easy to be a sexual minority; let alone trying to find an accepting place as a gay hockey player. The good ol’ hockey game can be a bit of a disappointment when it comes to conversations in the locker room and, to prevent others experiencing what he had, Bell decided to take action.

When Bell followed up with league organizers following his ousting, he found there were no protection or equality policies in place for gender and sexual minorities. Thankfully, the league has only seen overwhelming support for equality in hockey, and so the beginning of the association took root. The Pioneers came together with You Can Play and the Winsport Hockey Canada League to establish a team with a LGBT focus. The team first played under the CGHA banner in the Winsport Hockey Canada League last season. Comprised of an eclectic mix of individuals, including a goalie they found on Kijiji, the Pioneers are Calgary’s first gay hockey team.

You Can Play is an organization and social activism project that works to promote inclusion in sports and to challenge the attitudes found in locker rooms and arenas with the motto If You Can Play, You Can Play. Part video series (think along the lines of the It gets better project) and part cooperation with the NHL and amateur teams, You Can Play has helped to support LGBT hockey leagues and associations across North America.

Like their namesake, the Pioneers are at the forefront of LGBT hockey in Calgary. Last year they represented Alberta in the province’s first appearance at the Eastern Canada Cup, which was hosted by one of the earliest-formed gay hockey associations in Canada, the Toronto Gay Hockey Association. The teams at the Eastern Canada Cup share the same sentiment – that being gay doesn’t mean you can’t play  – encouraging hockey arenas to offer a welcoming and truly sportsmanly environment.

Sports, in general, are gaining increased LGBT visibility as players become public with their sexual orientation, and allies come forward to acknowledge and support their teammates, but there is still a ways to go.

Although created out of a less than ideal situation, the future is promising for the Pioneers, with plans to host their own tournaments and continue to represent Calgary at games around North America. You will find the same passion, skill and sportsmanship on the Pioneers as any other team; at the end of the day it’s for the love of the game. For those curious, the Pioneers are always looking for interested parties.

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Contributor Michael Nguyen |

Locale Calgary |

Topic Sports | Hockey | Pioneers Hockey | Calgary Gay Hockey Association |


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