UPDATE: Aug 1, 4:20pm
“It’ll be my first time taking part in such a parade, and from all accounts, what everybody tells me, one of the best in North America,” Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra said at an Aug 1 media conference call following an earlier announcement that he will march in Sunday’s Pride parade.
Malhotra will march alongside Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play project, and members of Vancouver’s Cutting Edges gay hockey club in the parade, which will wend its way through the West End before an anticipated crowd of more than half a million people.
“When I initially heard about what they were starting, I thought it was an incredible idea, so just to be able to show my support for what they started was really a no-brainer,” he says of the Burkes’ You Can Play campaign, which aims to combat homophobia in sport.
“My feeling is that it’s the start of something. I would hope in the future it wouldn’t need to be an issue.”
Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra will be the first member of the hockey team to march in the Pride parade, on Aug 5.
(Canucks team photographer Jeff Vinnick)
“I don’t feel race, religion, creed, age, sexual orientation should be a deciding factor on how you judge somebody, especially in sports,” he adds. “Sports for me is designed to be all-inclusive, to incorporate people, to form unity, to form a team. I don’t think any of those factors should segregate people from being a part of it.”
Malhotra cites his upbringing in multicultural Mississauga and the values his parents instilled as factors that shaped his perspective. He says he knows people in the queer community and has two friends who are gay. “When they found out I was walking, obviously they were quite happy.”
Malhotra says he agrees with Patrick Burke’s feeling that it’s becoming less acceptable to be homophobic. “I think we’re definitely seeing a change in the sporting community, also in society as a whole."
He’s also seeing positive change in the mentality of his peers and of athletes in different sports.
“Where perhaps in the past it was a taboo question as far as gay people in sports — who supports and who doesn’t — I think we’re getting past that hump and moving more towards a point where it should be, which is indifference.
“I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”
Aug 1, 2012
Centre Manny Malhotra will become the first member of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team to march in the Pride parade this Sunday, Aug 5.
“I’m thrilled to be able to show my support for You Can Play,” Malhotra says in an Aug 1 statement. “It’s paramount that equality in sport, and beyond, becomes the norm. Everybody has the right to play the game they love. I am excited to share this message of equality and show my support this Sunday.”
Malhotra, an alternate captain for the Canucks, will join Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play project, and members of Vancouver’s Cutting Edges gay hockey club on the parade route, which will make its way through the West End before an anticipated crowd of more than half a million people.
“We’re very excited, obviously,” says Cutting Edges president and goalie Christopher Bailey. “I believe it’s the first time that a current NHL player has marched in a Pride parade in Canada,” he adds.
As far as Bailey knows, Malhotra is the only Canucks player who will march in the parade on Sunday.
Bailey credits Malhotra’s participation this Sunday to Burke and the You Can Play campaign, which aims to combat homophobia in sport. “We got Patrick on board to be involved with the parade, and of course, he’s intimately connected with a whole bunch of different hockey organizations across North America, and he was able to help us with the Canucks.”
Burke confirms he got a call from the Cutting Edges asking him to march in the parade. When he tweeted his plan to attend, he says, the Canucks called him and asked how they could show their support. “They asked if I would be interested in having someone from the organization come and march with me, and for obvious reasons I said yes.
“So now we’re going to have myself and Manny and Fin, the mascot, who will be marching on Sunday,” Burke says.
“We were excited to get Manny because he’s such a well-respected player,” he adds. “Part of the reason why Ryan [Kesler] or Daniel or Hank [Sedin] isn’t there as well is just for scheduling reasons — not all the guys are in the city all year, and Manny is in the city all year.”
Bailey says he doesn’t know how the Canucks decided who they were going to select to be in the parade. “It had to be someone who would be local and available,” he says, given that players train at various out-of-town facilities in the summer.
For Burke, it’s becoming more and more common for people to speak out about homophobia. “I think we’ve really, in the last five years or so, hit the tipping point in sports where it’s no longer accepted, it’s no longer okay to be homophobic, and we’re seeing more and more leagues and athletes and teams, and fans and media [speak up],” he says.
“It used to be it was this landmark event anytime an athlete said anything about the gay community, and now it’s becoming more and more the norm to talk about it.”
Burke and his father, Brian, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, launched You Can Play in honour of his gay younger brother, Brendan, who died in a car accident in 2010. Since its establishment last year, the campaign has received support from numerous NHL teams and players, including Kesler, the Sedins, Zdeno Chara, Steven Stamkos, Shea Weber and Carey Price.
Malhotra’s participation on Sunday will make him the third professional hockey player to march this year in Pride parades under the You Can Play banner, Burke notes. Tommy Wingels, of the San Jose Sharks, and Vincent LoVerde, of the Ontario Reign, marched in Chicago on June 24.
Wingels, a You Can Play advisory board member, says he marched because “it was important to show that I was an ally and that there are many others out there as well.”
Burke says it’s “heartwarming” to see Vancouver’s queer and hockey communities coming together.
Bailey agrees there seems to be a “momentum of inclusion” building in the sports world that is “long overdue.”
He points to the slogan “We Are All Canucks,” which he sees as a goodwill gesture.
But Bailey says there’s still a long way to go before people look at gay athletes “with inclusion in their mind, instead of exclusion.”
Bailey mentioned recent comments by Boston Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas in support of American fast-food franchise Chick-fil-A, which is in the midst of a culture war firestorm over its anti-gay-marriage stance and substantial financial donations to anti-gay organizations.
“I stand with Chick-fil-A,” Thomas says on his Facebook page. “Chick-fil-A is privately owned by the Cathy family. The company president, Dan Cathy, drew the wrath of gay rights advocates and supporters when he made recent statements that some have alleged are anti-gay,” Thomas says. “Cathy told Baptist Press that the company was unapologetically in favour of traditional marriage.”
“In a separate interview on the Ken Coleman Show, Cathy suggested that the nation could face God’s wrath over the redefinition of marriage,” Thomas noted.
“I don’t think you can sit back on your laurels when you have people still making comments,” Bailey says. “We’re still in the infancy, I think.
“But it’s a big step,” he says of Malhotra’s participation on Sunday.
“Really, I want people to have a lot of fun; I want Manny to have a lot of fun and enjoy the moment.”