The Vancouver Canucks showed an unprecedented level of support for the LGBT community this summer when they sent Jason Garrison and Manny Malhotra as representatives of the team at the Vancouver Gay Pride Parade, alongside Fin, You Can Play’s Patrick Burke, and openly gay hockey team the Vancouver Cutting Edge.
Now they’re going to be making another big statement: in honour of GLAAD’s Spirit Day on Friday, October 19th, they’ll be lighting up Rogers Arena in purple.
For the uninitiated, GLAAD describes Spirit Day as “an annual day in October when millions of [North] Americans wear purple to speak out against bullying and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.”
Of course, the Canucks can’t ask their players to wear purple, because, thanks to the lockout, they don’t have any players. So they got creative. You can lock a building, but you can’t lock a building out.
According to Patrick Burke, the NHL as a whole will be showing their support for Spirit Day tomorrow through social media, and a number of teams will be doing their own initiatives as well. But the Canucks decided to take it to the next level.
“The NHL sent an e-mail to the teams saying this is what Spirit Day is, this is what’s going on, here’s what we’re gonna do,” said Burke, “and if each team wants to do something else, feel free. The Flyers have a story going. The Devils are doing some stuff. But because it originated in Vancouver, and because the Canucks have made a big commitment to this previously, with this summer’s Vancouver Pride Parade — they were the first male sports team to be represented in a pride parade — the Canucks wanted to do something special, and the best idea was turning the whole barn purple.”
You Can Play is fully behind the idea. So is GLAAD.
“The support for Spirit Day from the sports world has been absolutely unprecedented,” said Aaron McQuade, who runs the sports program at GLAAD. “The Vancouver Canucks turning Rogers Arena purple will send an incredibly powerful message to a community that has been deeply affected by bullying. We thank the team and our friends at the You Can Play Project for facilitating this show of support for the young people who need to see it.”
McQuade is certainly right about that. In the wake of Amanda Todd’s death, which still has the community reeling, the Canucks taking an impossible-to-miss stand against bullying is more meaningful than ever, especially for young people.
But there’s another reason for the Canucks to feel a local connection to Spirit Day. The movement began just outside of Vancouver.
Spirit Day was the brainchild of Surrey teenager Brittany McMillan, who was inspired to do something in October 2010 after a rash of suicides by LGBT teens victimized by bullies. She chose wearing purple because the colour purple represents “spirit” on the rainbow gay pride flag.
“The first year I did it, two million people wore purple,” McMillan told the Vancouver Sun back in June. “The second time, three million. This year, we’re trying to get an even larger number of people.”
Not to mention a building. Kudos to the Canucks’ organization for finding a unique way to show their spirit.