By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns
When the Devils take the ice for warmups Monday night before their game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Prudential Center, the evening will be about more than just a matchup of two Eastern Conference foes fighting for valuable points in the standings.READ MORE: Paterson Mother Charged With Murder In 7-Year-Old's Death
Fans will notice something noticeably different about the sticks that each Devils player will be using as they get ready for the 7 p.m. faceoff.
As part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign, the Devils will be celebrating Pride Night at “The Rock,” and each player, including team captain and Pride Night spokesperson Andy Greene will have their stick wrapped with pride tape for the pregame warmup.
“If you’re a good person, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, how old you are or what your sexual orientation might be,” Greene told NHL.com recently. “It’s about being a good person and accepting people for who they are and not trying to create someone they’re not. It’s important we get that message out there because there’s people who have self-doubt, and it’s important we let them know there’s always someone here for you.”
The evening, hosted along with You Can Play, Newark Gay Pride and the Essex County RAIN (Reaching Adolescents in Need) Foundation, will kick off the NHL’s Pride Week as the Devils raise awareness for issues that the LGBTQ community is experiencing.
There will also be a number of fundraising initiatives throughout the night, including the sale of Devils Pride T-shirts for $20 with the proceeds going to Newark Gay Pride. Also, proceeds from the 50/50 raffle will be donated to the RAIN Foundation while a postgame auction of the sticks that the Devils will be using during the warmups will be contributed to You Can Play, an official partner of the NHL whose mission statement is to ensure safety and inclusion for all LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans.
All in all, the Devils are hoping to raise $10,000 to support their local partners and foundations for this special event. Greene feels a special responsibility to lend a helping hand to this initiative.READ MORE: 3 Teens Charged In Manhattan Subway Attacks, Police Release Video Of New Suspect Believed To Be Group's Lookout
“As captain of the Devils, I want to be that voice for the team, for the media, fans, New Jersey, in order to represent the team the best I can,” Greene told NHL.com. “I want to make sure I’m a bridge from the players to the coaches and management, making sure I have the pulse of the room and pulse of the team.”
As part of its “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative, the NHL is using the sport and the league’s global influence “to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities.”
The NHL goes on to say: “We support any teammate, coach or fan who brings heart, energy and passion to the rink. We believe all hockey programs — from professionals to youth organizations — should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.”
Willie O’Ree, the first black player in NHL history and the league’s current director of cause marketing, is the ambassador for the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative. He played 45 games for the Boston Bruins from 1958 to 1961 and has helped introduce the game of hockey to more than 85,000 boys
All 30 NHL teams have “Hockey Is For Everyone” team ambassadors. In addition to Greene, the local team ambassadors are Islanders center Casey Cizikas and Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello.
As part of the festivities, the Devils will also host a networking event starting at 5 p.m. featuring a number of special guests, including Newark Gay Pride President Sharronda Wheeler and You Can Play ambassador David Farber.
Fans who attend the game will notice that the towers at the Prudential Center will be lit up in Pride colors and that there will be a special honoree for the “Hero Among Us” spotlight that takes place at each Devils home game. On Monday night, the Devils will honor James Credle, an out veteran who was a founding member of the Newark Pride Alliance and the National Association of Black and White Men Together, an organization that works against racism, sexism, homophobia and HIV discrimination.
While the Devils currently find themselves on the outside looking in as far as the playoff race is concerned, the entire organization will be striving for more than just two points in the standings on Monday night against the Canadiens. The team, as well as the entire NHL, continues to try to make a point that hockey is truly for everyone.
For more information on Devils Pride Night, visit www.nhl.com/devils/community/pride-night.MORE NEWS: Pro-Palestine Protesters Block Traffic On Gowanus Expressway
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @NJDevils, @YouCanPlayTeam and @NewarkPride05.