What Edmonton has undoubtedly discovered, and what Boston knew and misses, is that Andrew Ference doesn’t just come to a city to play hockey. No, he becomes a part of the fabric of the community, getting involved in the community whenever and however he can. So, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Ference will be found on Saturday, June 7, marching in support of diversity in the Edmonton Pride Parade.

The Edmonton Oilers captain announced on Tuesday that he would be participating in the parade as a representative of the You Can Play team, along with the University of Alberta’s Camp fYrefly youth leadership program.

You Can Play recently partnered with the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS). But it should not be a surprise that NHL players are not only aware of the issues of the LGBT community but You Can Play has had a partnership with the NHL.

In January, 2014, with Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche lending his voice to the fight for inclusion and equality, it marked the historic moment when every team in the NHL was represented by at least one player in support of LGBT athletes, team staff, coaches and fans. The message is simple.: If you can play, you can play. Videos from a variety of teams, universities and individual players can be found on the YouCanPlayProject channel on YouTube.

edmonton-pride-festival“You Can Play has fundamentally changed the way the NHL players think and act. We understand the important role we can play in ending discrimination within sports and society and I feel honored to be able to participate in events with them and Camp fYrefly including Edmonton’s Pride Parade,” Ference said. “When we work, play and live together without discrimination it makes our entire community stronger and more productive.”

Ference doesn’t just lend his name to things. He educates himself on the issues and makes sure that if he is talking the talk that he is also walking the walk. Moving from Boston to Edmonton at the end of the 2012-13 season, he helped launch an Edmonton group of the November Project, designed to encourage people to get out early in the morning and exercise, something he had become involved in while in Boston. In fact, he even got Patrick Burke, president of You Can Play, to join him for one of the early morning events at the Harvard Stadium, to run the stadium sections.

“We are grateful for Andrew’s relentless support for You Can Play and the ideals we work to instill in sports. Bringing professional athletes together with LGBTQ youth benefits everyone: the athletes, the young people, the University of Alberta, and the city of Edmonton. We look forward to celebrating inclusion and acceptance with everyone during Pride,” said Burke.

Ference doesn’t want accolades for his decision. He participates in the parade because it is the right thing to do for him. As he was quoted in the Edmonton Journal, he is quite cognizant of why he does things.

“I have an extreme fear of ever being a hypocrite. If I want to do something, I want to do it because I believe in it, not just because I’m doing a favor for somebody or because they’re giving you money to show up for a little bit,” he said. “I don’t like that. It loses credibility; it loses authenticity. I think you have to believe in the things you do. People have really good bullshit meters.”

And that is classic Ference. A straight shooting guy who recognizes that people see through those who show up for a photo-op rather than because they believe in the cause. Ference not only believes but his passion and devotion to those things he believes in is contagious and his enthusiasm spreads among those in the community he calls home. Some may feel that his decision to march on Saturday is a surprise, but those who have seen him become involved in other issues are not surprised at all.

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.

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