Stingers to hold first ever Pride Games

The new themed nights are an opportunity for growth and community connection

Graphic Myriam Ouazzani

For the first time in Concordia’s history, the Stingers’ men’s and women’s hockey teams will be hosting Pride Games. The themed games are set to take place at the Ed Meagher Arena on Feb. 3 and 4 against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.

The Stingers Pride Games will be held in collaboration with Queer Concordia. To underline the event, there will be pre-game tabling by organizations such as Interligne, GRIS-Montreal and Project 10, as well as a raffle for signed Montreal Canadiens pride merch.

These new themed nights come only a few months after the NHL caused controversy by prohibiting players from using Pride Tape and other themed paraphernalia. The ban was quickly rescinded after Arizona Coyotes defenceman Travis Dermott used Pride Tape in defiance of the rule.

Stingers athletic director D’Arcy Ryan made it clear, however, that Concordia’s Pride Games weren’t about backlash against the NHL. “We’re not looking at it as that,” Ryan told The Link. “We’re looking at it as a great initiative, [and] a way to allow everyone to be the best version of themselves.”

In fact, Nicolas Bergeron, the student voice behind the Stingers Pride Games and senior coordinator of Queer Concordia, came up with the idea over a year ago, before the NHL controversy began.

“Special theme nights [are] an excellent way to engage with the community and bring people together, while highlighting important causes,” he said.

Bergeron reached out to the Stingers over the winter break to propose a collaborative Pride Game, and plans have been in the works ever since.

“We, as a department, are always super supportive of student initiatives,” said Ryan. “So when [Bergeron] came to us with regards to this, for us it was a no-brainer.”

Ryan also credits Bergeron with much of the planning for these themed nights. Alongside coordinating the tabling in the atrium, Ryan noted that it was Bergeron who ordered Pride Tape for Stingers players to use.

As for how Stingers players and coaches feel about Pride Games, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“We should’ve done [Pride Games] before, too,” said Marc-André Elément, head coach of the men’s hockey team. According to him, players on the men’s hockey team are looking forward to the event.

“It’s a subject everybody has to be aware of,” said Elément. “[The players] are role models for the community [...] and I know some kids will be at the game. That’s why it’s fun to create.”

Stingers women’s hockey head coach Julie Chu was similarly enthusiastic. Chu, whose wife Caroline Ouellette serves as the women’s team’s associate head coach, highlighted the important role that representation plays for queer athletes.

Chu played for the US Olympic women’s hockey team between 2002 and 2014, and seeing her teammates be able to live openly and be treated equally regardless of their identity was a huge factor for her to be comfortable with her own identity. “I didn’t have to feel like I was the only one,” said Chu. “Or like maybe there was something wrong [with me].”

Chu emphasized how seeing other queer athletes opens up a world of possibilities for young athletes who are just figuring out their place within both queer and athletic communities. “That’s why pride nights are important,” she continued.

For Chu, the most important aspect of pride is just existing as her authentic self. “We don’t have to be super outward about it, we’re just living our lives and raising our daughters as two moms,” she said.

As a coach, Chu works to replicate that casual but vital acceptance. “We want to create a locker room where you can be open and out and be supported, and then you can still be loved and supported even if you don’t want to be open,” she said.

Bergeron encourages Concordians to wear pride merch to the games. To him, this isn’t just a themed night, it’s a community-building moment with a clear message. “Everyone is welcome to enjoy our national sport,” he said.

The men’s team will host their Pride Game on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m., and the women’s team will host theirs on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. The raffle and tabling will begin an hour before the puck drop.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 9, published January 30, 2024.