By Carol Schram
As a Stanley Cup winner who was teammates with Jay Beagle and Nate Schmidt during his time with the Washington Capitals, goaltender Braden Holtby likely had no trouble assimilating in the dressing room of his new team, the Vancouver Canucks.
Holtby’s enthusiastic support for LGBTQ+ causes also makes him a good fit in Vancouver, where the Canucks go beyond participating in the NHL’s annual Hockey Is For Everyone campaign.
The team has a regular presence at their city’s annual Pride Parade. Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher, Erik Gudbranson and Emerson Etem are among the Canucks players who have marched in past years.
In 2018, then-Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson, wore a rainbow flag on the back of his mask. He made headlines when he was named “Hetero of the Year” by the major Swedish LGBT website QX, for his allyship and support of the community.
“For me it is really important to be a good role model and show that hockey is for everyone,” Nilsson said. “Especially when it comes to kids and teenagers. Everyone should feel welcomed to play hockey, no matter your sexual orientation, religion or race.”
While a member of the Capitals, Holtby and his wife, Brandi, participated three times in Washington’s Capital Pride Festival. They marched twice in the Capital Pride Parade, on behalf of the team and its parent organization, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, as well as You Can Play – a group that works to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans. “I am honored to represent the Capitals and participate in this important event that shines light on the contributions the LGBT community makes every day,” Holtby said in a statement. “I believe in equality for all people and I look forward to showing my support along with our organization and fans.”
Holtby’s interest in the cause was ignited several years ago when he and Brandi made a visit to the San Francisco Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store during their honeymoon. HRC is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the U.S., and Holtby stayed in touch – regularly attending the group’s national dinners in Washington.
Three months after winning the Stanley Cup, Holtby took to the stage at the 2018 HRC dinner to introduce Adam Rippon, the first openly gay figure skater to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. Holtby's teammates Brett Connolly, Chandler Stephenson and Nathan Walker were in the audience supporting him.
“We worked hard to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington, D.C., and we take all of you on that journey with us,” Holtby said in his remarks. “And we are proof that supporting LGBTQ equality is a winning decision, and we’re honored to stand here with you in the fight.”
Brandi helped open her husband’s eyes to the importance of the LTBTQ cause.
“My wife has taught me a lot more about it than I knew before and kind of broadened my views on a lot of LGBT community issues,” he said. “We’ve just gotten to know people in around the community, the issues they go through, and what they’re trying to accomplish. We’ve tried to support them in different ways to create equality, basically.”
Holtby’s desire to be an ally has forced him to step outside his comfort zone.
“I’ve never really been a guy for the spotlight or anything like that,” he admitted. “I didn’t do enough early on in my career, and my wife has been the one to push me to use that a bit more because you can use that for good.”