This past Saturday, June 7, the Edmonton Pride Parade celebrated its 34th year – and there was a big name in attendance. Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference made the decision to attend, making him the first member of the Oilers thus far to participate in the parade over the years it has been running in the community. He marched on behalf of You Can Play, a social activism campaign that seeks to make progress towards eliminating homophobia in the sports world. For a city that bleeds blue and orange, having a member of such a beloved team at an event like that makes a huge impact. The proof of the impact is in the media coverage – Ference gave countless interviews to Edmonton media sources and even a few larger national media outlets.
In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, he spoke out about the responsibility he felt athletes had, particularly at the pro level, stating it was crucial to ensure “that [LGBT] youth know they have allies at the pro level, or whether it’s a teammate who might be thinking about coming out, or whatever it is, we want to make sure that it’s an accepting environment for everyone.”
He didn’t feel his stance was too noteworthy, saying that “I think for most [NHL players], especially with You Can Play [initiatives], it’s not a big step for us” to support diversity by attending events such as Pride.
Edmonton mayor Don Iveson commended Ference for his decision and said that Ference’s participation in Pride was merely another one of the positive influences the Oiler was having on the city, stating that “there are a lot of people in that community who are absolutely thrilled that he is doing this and I am looking forward to being in the parade with him.”
His decision to participate in the event shows Ference’s status as a true captain who leads by example, both on and off the ice.