It goes without saying, or most certainly should, that people should not be judged based on the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion or their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet.

That’s what makes Andrew Ference’s decision to March in Edmonton’s Pride Parade in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender community (LGBT) today so commendable.

In a world that has yet to fully come to grips with accepting people for who they are, the captain of the Edmonton Oilers is stepping forward as a man who performs in a fraternity that struggles as much or more as any segment of our society with male sexuality.

When a player, Ference, who makes his living playing a tough game against tough men in the NHL chooses to participate in a parade celebrating diversity, it’s still newsworthy. One need only type “Edmonton Pride Parade 2014” into Google’s search engine to know that – six of the first 10 results I got this morning were in reference to Ference taking part.

It is news. I look forward to the day when it’s not.



Even today, acceptance of sexual orientation is far from universal, be it here in Edmonton or anywhere else. Are we making progress? Absolutely, as a 55-year-old man who is old enough to remember a very different era when attitudes toward race, religion and sexual orientation – mine included – were different, I can say that with confidence.

It’s also obvious, given the mistreatment of others that still makes headlines on a daily basis somewhere, old attitudes remain today in varying degrees. In my neighborhood. In your neighborhood. Certainly in the culture of the NHL. It is news, then, when Ference takes part, becoming the first member of the Oilers to do so.

Jen Scrivens, wife of Oiler goaltender Ben Scrivens, will march today. Former Oiler Georges Laraque has marched in Montreal. Manny Malhotra and Jason Garrison have marched in Vancouver. In 2011, Sean Avery came out in favor of equal marriage rights in New York. Brian Burke has marched. Burke’s son Patrick started the You Can Play initiative in 2012 after brother Brendan died in an automobile accident in 2010.

“Making sure that (LGBT) youth know they have allies at the pro level, or whether it’s a teammate who might be thinking about coming out, or whatever it is, we want to make sure that it’s an accepting environment for everyone,” Ference told the Edmonton Journal. “I know most of my teammates and guys around the league line up with the same kind of belief.”



Yes, most but not all. In that, the NHL is no different than the rest of society. My neighborhood. Your neighborhood. For all of the progress made since I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, for how we more often embrace our brothers and sisters for what they are rather than what we think they should be, we still have a long way to go.

Players like Andrew Ference will help get us there. That’s what leaders do.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • ubermiguel

    Ference is a great person and Edmonton is a better place for having him here. If the quality of his play matched the quality of his community involvement he’d be a Norris winner every year.

  • paul wodehouse

    …Robin…if one is touted to go in the 4th round of the NFL draft and you go in the 7th, actually 249th out of 256 as a compensatory pick let’s NOT call it being dropped like a hot potato…let’s forget I ever brought it up…and that question I asked? you don’t need to answer that either…I’ll just stay here on the bandwagon and say how great it is to have a captain like Ference …zzz

    • The question you asked?

      How could I even begin to make an educated guess? You’d feel better if I said, “Yes, I think somebody will come out and they’ll do it within a year,” even though I have nothing to base it on?

    • Maybe Sam dropped because he’s not that good as opposed to what his sexual orientation is? How is Robin supposed to know when an NHLer will come out? Stop acting like a baby, he answered your question.

  • paul wodehouse

    Wow, someone actually trashed a comment where I said if a player is good enough, he’d get drafted regardless of whether or not he’s gay – especially by one team, even if 29 others passed. Guess homophobia isn’t going away as fast as we all might like.

  • paul wodehouse

    If a player is good enough, nobody will care what orientation is. Winning is winning. Besides, even if 29 teams take a pass on a good first round type player because he’s gay, he’ll be drafted at 30 while Calgary sits in the draft. You seem to have forgotten Burke routinely sits in charge of hockey clubs and he’s currently with the organization a few hours south of us.

  • paul wodehouse

    …given that Michael Sam came out as the first openly gay football player and subsequently got dropped like a hot potato in the NFL draft…what is your best guess Robin as to when, IF EVER, there will be an openly gay NHL player and do you think he would get the treatment Michael Sam got in the aftermath of such a profound event?

    • BlazingSaitls

      I dont see the need to speculate on these hypotheticals. Andrew Ference generated a postive good news story. It didnt need to be speculated on. As long as these stories keep happening, and leaders like Ference chip away at the negative stigma of being a gay, there is a bright future ahead.

        • Sevenseven

          I’m not convinced Sam was dropped like a hot potato, as you suggest.

          Ranked by some to go as high as the fourth round, he went in the seventh. Lots of players after the obvious blue-chippers are selected drop or rise in later rounds.

          Sam is on the small side for a defensive end and not quick enough to be a linebacker. He’s a longshot regardless of sexual orientation.

          • Sevenseven

            I saw a nice picture of Sam celebrating with his boyfriend. It made history because it was the first time anyone celebrated getting drafted by the rams.

          • ubermiguel

            Sam is 6’3″, 255. Guys that size like Lamarr Houston and Rob Ninkovich do fine in a 4-3 defense. SEC Defensive Players of the Year always go in the first round. So it wasn’t his football play that dropped him to the 7th round. The Rams got a great deal because other teams didn’t want to deal with the locker room culture change and losing their homophobic fans.