By Michael Blinn
Gabriel Landeskog is no stranger to making history in the NHL: When he was named captain of the Colorado Avalanche last season, the Swede became the youngest in league history to hold the title.
Today, he's helped to make even more history, and possibly on a grander, more transcendent scale, with his :52 ad, according to the You Can Play Project:
It’s more than a cool captain and some cooler kids representing a new era of equality in sports. It’s also the day that every team in the National Hockey League has now been represented by a player who has spoken on behalf of LGBT athletes, team staff, coaches and fans. Think about that. Every team in the NHL.
It might not be much of a surprise that all 30 teams have given their support to the cause, as longtime scout and current Director of Player Safety for the NHL Patrick Burke (son of Calgary Flames president and Team USA GM Brian Burke) started the organization, which is "dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation." YCP, which goes by the simple credo of "If you can play, you can play," was created to honor Burke's younger brother, Brendan, who was killed in a car crash shortly after he made headlines by coming out while a student manager for the Miami (OH) RedHawks hockey team.
EXTRA MUSTARD: Q&A with You Can Play's director
"Change is taking place at a grassroots level," Patrick Burke said. "High school student-athletes are now partners with professional players in making important social change both on and off the field, the ice and the court."
Despite his stature at such a young age, Landeskog is a big piece of the NHL's next generation of superstars, and adding his name to YCP shows that the NHL continues to set trends and lead the way for social issues.
"Young athletes everywhere look up to National Hockey League players as leaders on inclusion," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Our players, our Clubs and every member of the NHL family will strive to support important initiatives such as You Can Play in our local communities and around the world."
Several notable names have attached themselves to the project, which transcends hockey: musicians Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, ESPN personalities John Buccigross and LZ Granderson, as well as established NHLers such as Joe Thornton
, Henrik Lundqvist
, Daniel Alfredsson
, and Steven Stamkos
. A full list of players who have leant their support to YCP can be found here
, and includes San Jose's Tommy Wingels
and Phoenix' Andy Miele
, who are among the project's board members.