The National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) announced their support for gay rights yesterday by unveiling a partnership with You Can Play, a gay-straight alliance project working to eliminate homophobia in sports. The project will provide training and offer counseling for new NHL players as well publicly address any homophobic remarks made by players in the league.

While other professional sports leagues have adopted their own non-discrimination policies on sexual orientation, the NHL’s new partnership with You Can Play goes a step further in the advocacy for openly gay players and the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community.

“Our motto is ‘Hockey Is for Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players’ Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement yesterday regarding the new partnership.

In addition to offering counseling and training, the You Can Play program will provide public service announcements (PSAs) featuring NHL players on LGBT matters as well as support to handle media attention should a player come out as gay. A few NHL players, including alternate captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins Brooks Orpik, have already participated in You Can Play campaigns over the past year.

Other major sports leagues are starting to contemplate adopting similar stances as the push for gay rights and equality is steadily growing. It was rumored last week that as many as four National Football League (NFL) players could come out openly gay in the near future, which has made the NFL consider its policies and allowing the inclusion of LBGT in football.

Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.