James van Riemsdyk has a lot of accomplishments in his hockey career already: he was selected second overall in the NHL draft, he’s an Olympian, he starred in a Hollywood movie, he even has a world-famous pasta casserole named after him.
Today, he added a new accomplishment. JvR will be the Maple Leafs’ You Can Play club ambassador.
The NHL has teamed up with the You Can Play project, jointly declaring February as Hockey Is For Everyone month. The league has events planned at a game for each club this month. The Maple Leafs will have theirs shortly.
JvR’s role is defined as “being a leader in the locker room and in the community on diversity, equality, and inclusion. These players have agreed to lead the way in their markets and fight homophobia in sports.”
That is no small task.
As a hockey fan who is gay, I know there can be uncomfortable moments. I’ve had a few of them. Fortunately, mine have only been uncomfortable. Others have experienced worse.
The tolerance of casual homophobia is not going away from this initiative alone, but for the league to put this front and center in front of all the fans and players like this shows they are taking it seriously; that it matters to them.
The Canadiens ambassador will be Andrew Shaw. Yes. Andrew Shaw.
I think that’s great.
I don’t know how players were selected for this, but I have hope that he volunteered. To put yourself in unfamiliar situations, forcing yourself to understand others who are different, is one way you start to create an inclusive environment.
JvR’s selection also shows the team has confidence in him to be a strong voice in the locker-room, and in the community. I think he will be perfect at the job.
Unfortunately, JvR could not be located for comment.