SEATTLE - Seattle Pride has taken over the ice at the Kraken Community Iceplex this weekend for the 2022 Seattle Pride Classic hockey tournament.
Organizers say the Seattle Pride Classic shows hockey is for everyone and participation this year has tripled. Players say the games are less about winning and more about celebrating. They also say the tournament is about representation, as they play on a pride-themed rink.
"It's a great feeling just to be around other people that are trying to make a change in the game," player Randy Cote said.
Skates laced. Sticks taped up in many colors. Pucks on the ice.
The Seattle Pride Classic has players like Cote excited to celebrate each other playing a game they love.
"I put the rainbow pride tape on my stick every single week whether I'm playing a pick-up game with friends, my league game, I try to bring that visibility wherever I go, so that people know, you know, hockey isn't just for hyper-masculine straight white guys. There's a lot of women that play the game, there's queer people that play the game, there's people of color that play the game," Cote said.
Seattle Pride Hockey Association Vice President and Co-Founder Joey Gale said participation has tripled this year with 140 participants on 10 teams. Two-thirds of them identify as LGBTQ, according to Gale.
"We want to make sure that hockey's a sport for everyone. Especially as queer youth are, you know, a big conversation around the country especially in terms of sports, so we just want to show that, you know, you can play the sport regardless of what you identify as or who you are," he told FOX 13 News.
Gale points right to the ice where a pride flag is front and center. He said this is one of the first rinks in the United States to have one.
"I got emotional, actually, yesterday coming in seeing the ice painted. We've got our big logo up on the scoreboard here. It just means a ton to see so much support for this organization and really see folks show up to an event like this," Gale said.
Andrew Ference, with the National Hockey League, said these tournaments celebrating pride are an important part of what the NHL stands for.
They're happening all over North America, but Seattle stands out for how quickly the event here has grown.
"We've got to get rid of the knuckleheads, right? If you're not welcoming everybody to your sport, like, you're an idiot. We want everybody at the party. It's more fun. It's way more fun," Ference said.
And that is what they all said is the goal.
"There are people who grew up hearing homophobic things in dressing room, on the ice, things that would keep them from playing the game and hockey, I think we all think is the greatest sport in the world, so the more people that can be exposed to it and play it," Cote said.
The Seattle Pride Classic continues on Sunday starting at 8 a.m.
The event has grown so much in a short time that it was sold out to players.
For a list of Pride Month events happening across the Puget Sound region, click here.