Safe Places to Play

Broadcaster Ron MacLean (far left), Canadian vocalist Tara Slone (far right) and members of the Calgary Pioneers

By Allan Lynch

Mike Bell of Calgary and Charles (Chuck) Dauphinee of Dartmouth love hockey, but they were almost benched by attitudes towards LGBTQ2S+ people.

When Bell “came out” five years ago, he found “things got pretty weird” and the guys he’d spent seven years playing hockey with “asked me not to play with them anymore.” Dauphinee, meanwhile, grew up feeling “I never fit into any type of sport.”

Rather than give up the game, Bell founded the Calgary Pioneers, which have expanded to include The Villagers and the Calgary Inclusive Hockey Association.

For Bell, the path to creating the new teams started with helping his former league, The WinSport Hockey Canada League, develop zero-tolerance policies around discrimination for LGBTQ2S+ people as well as people of all races, religions and gender identities.

Bell adds, “We’re not just two hockey teams, we do a lot in the community,” from participating with the Calgary Flames in the city’s Pride Parade to showcasing LGBTQ2S+ athletes and speaking to universities and high schools about the importance of equality and how language can hurt and keep people closeted. 

Dauphinee, who helped launch the Halifax Mussels, chuckles that while the team may be “the slowest hockey group in the city, by far we’re the most fun. You feel like you’re in a safe place. I feel our group is needed right now. People feel like athletes—they have more confidence and have something to talk about and be proud of. I feel we’ve created a lifelong bond with most of the guys, which they are willing to grow.”

Bell adds, “I think a lot of people see [LGBTQ2S+ leagues] as a really cool way to network and build a friend group in the community that doesn’t involve going to the bar.” 

Create Your Own LGBTQ2S+ League
• Develop strategic partnerships with traditional leagues and sponsors as soon as possible. Ensure the traditional league has—or work with them to develop—a zero-tolerance discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation, race, gender identity and religious affiliation.
• Harness social media to spread the word about your new league and connect with other LGBTQ2S+ groups and leagues to raise interest and share best practices.
• Keep it affordable and ensure everyone has a chance to play. Remember that inclusiveness also means embracing potential players who may not even skate. Schedule lots of skill and practice sessions. 
• Contact You Can Play for guidance and resources: youcanplayproject.org


Photos: Calgary Inclusive Hockey Association

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