NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told FOX Sports Monday that the league would support a player who decides to come out as gay.
The NHL has yet to have an active player publicly say he is gay. In April 2013, NBA player Jason Collins came out, and in February, current Dallas Cowboys practice squad player Michael Sam did as well.
"If a player wants to come out, he can feel comfortable doing it knowing he has support," Bettman said. "Players are role models, sports are role models. We want to make a statement to people that your orientation doesn't matter."
Bettman said he knows hockey has a platform that "can get people's attention," and that he and the NHL are working to use the sport as a vehicle for social change.
"The number of women attending our games is higher than any other sport, the number of stories I hear about first dates at a hockey game is overwhelming — we want to be diverse, whether it’s sexual orientation or gender," he said.
The commissioner also said he wants people to believe hockey is "for everyone," and believes many of the NHL's recent initiatives, such as Hockey Fights Cancer, proves that.
MLS player Robbie Rogers is currently the only openly gay male athlete on a team roster in any of the five major U.S. professional sports leagues.
- Molly Geary