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    The Ultimate Team Sport: Hockey

    johnsports“Hockey is all about the team. Hockey culture hates individualism,” said Patrick Burke, Co-Founder of You Can Play in an ESPN interview in 2015. The Burke clan is an influential and passionate hockey family with deep roots in the NHL (National Hockey League). Burke, whose brother Brendan was gay, has been at the forefront of LGBT sports advocacy since Brendon’s tragic passing in 2010. In founding You Can Play, Burke hopes to “change the way” people perceive LGBT athletes and see them for their “talent, work ethic, and character.”

    According to Burke, a hockey player should not stand out from his/her teammates or make him/herself “different from the team [and] if you can play, you can play.” For this reason, hockey is extremely welcoming and supportive of team members regardless of gender, gender identification, age, physical size, race, etc. Mengju (MJ) Wu, one of the many women recreational hockey players here in the Bay Area, reiterated this point. “I’ve found the hockey community to be incredibly supportive,” she said, “especially [for] a beginner. Everyone is so kind and helpful!”

    “I absolutely love the hockey culture! Players check their egos at the door,” exclaimed Dan Hagerty, a Boston transplant to the San Francisco Bay Area and a proud straight member of the LGBT Goaldigger ice hockey team. Founded by Don Otvos in 2007, the Goaldigger ice hockey teams fielded many LGBT men and women, especially hockey enthusiasts like Dan. From a humble beginning of new players wanting to learn and try ice hockey, Goaldigger now supports several novice and advance teams and is in the process of becoming a formal sports organization serving the Bay Area LGBT community.

    “I love hockey because I am an adrenaline junkie!” Michael Promes, a Goaldigger member since 2011, said with great excitement. “When I play hockey, I can be physical and aggressive; and I find solace on ice,” said Gunner Webster, who came here from Calgary, Canada. “I enjoy disappointing people by stealing the puck from them,” added Spencer Dixon with a sly and mischievous smile. Dixon has a roller hockey background. “There’s simply no other feeling that compares to the rush and exhilaration of gliding down the ice at speeds,” chimed in fearless MJ. Whatever their reason for the love of hockey, Goaldigger players are grateful to Don for affording them the opportunity to play.

    “Ice hockey wasn’t always this accessible to players, LGBT or not,” explained Don. For the longest time, there were few ice rinks in the San Francisco Bay Area, and being in California, people didn’t take hockey seriously. Then things changed in 1991 when the San Jose Sharks pro hockey team was established. According to Don and Michael, the Sharks organization took over and greatly expanded the management and the facilitation of ice rinks all over Northern California, thereby generating tremendous interest in the sport of hockey. The Sharks lowered the barrier to entry by making learning, clinics, leagues and equipment very accessible. This author thinks the Sharks have some brilliant marketing minds. Go Sharks! Make history and bring home the team’s first ever Stanley Cup! (Note: As of this writing, the Sharks were behind but still in the running.)

    Should you decide to give ice hockey the good ‘ol college try (and you should), Dan will welcome you to his team with open arms. He, Don, Michael, Spencer, and Gunner, along with the rest of the team, will expect nothing short of you being yourself, and being a great teammate. In the immortal words of MJ, “Do it!”

    For more information on Goaldigger Hockey Club: contact don@otvos.com or San Francisco Goaldigger on Facebook.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.