Edmonton's LGBTQ rainbow hockey tape goes international

Splashes of rainbow-coloured hockey tape are raising awareness about LGBTQ athletes worldwide, after an Edmonton-based campaign crossed the ocean.

Pride Tape 'a phenomenal made-in-Edmonton success story,' says co-creator of rainbow hockey tape

Pride Tape is an Edmonton product, developed to promote LGBTQ awareness and acceptance in sport. (CBC)

Splashes of rainbow-coloured hockey tape are raising awareness about LGBTQ athletes worldwide, after an Edmonton-based campaign crossed the ocean.

"It's a phenomenal made-in-Edmonton success story," said co-creater Kris Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta.

Pride Tape launched in Edmonton last December. The campaign encourages hockey players to wrap their sticks with the six rainbow colours of the LGBTQ pride flag.

Wells said he's now filling international orders to countries as far away as Australia.

"It's a lot more than tape — it's a powerful symbol," he said. 

"The real beauty is in the kinds of actions and the kind of dialogue it engenders."

The professional-grade tape is free for local minor hockey teams across Canada, though the public can buy rolls. Profits from those sales are re-invested into LGBTQ sport programs such as You Can Play.

Pride tape is a "phenomenal made-in-Edmonton success story," says product co-creator Kris Wells. (CBC)

Twelve months ago, Wells said he doubted if the project could skate off his notebook pages. He started an online fundraiser to pay for the first 10,000 rolls, and then watched as donations trickled in.

That's until the family of deceased athlete Brendan Burke "gave the final donation to put Pride Tape over the top."

Burke, the son of Brian Burke, president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames, was an openly gay hockey player and LGBTQ advocate. He died in a car accident six years ago.

"They wanted to turn his tragedy into a legacy of inclusion," Wells said about Burke's family.

From peewee to pro

The Edmonton Oilers became the first NHL team to use Pride Tape, debuting the rainbow-wrap in early 2016.

Rolls have since trickled down to peewee players. Hearing about how one youth team wrapped its sticks in support of a gay coach was the moment Wells said he knew the campaign had succeeded.

"It's people saying that they're allies without actually having to say any words," Wells said.

"They can just simply tape their stick and let their actions speak for them. What it's saying is that it's OK to be yourself here, that we're not going to put up with homophobia or transphobia in the locker room or on the ice."

Pride Tape has also rolled into others sports, Wells added. He hopes to expand the project after spotting the rainbow colours wrapped around baseball bats, tennis racquets and golf clubs.

"We'll go where the demand is because it's a universal message," Wells said. 

"It's about building a better more inclusive world for everyone and it's pretty fantastic that we can start with sports showing that kind of leadership."