Oiler Andrew Ference's support of LGBTQ community runs deep

For Andrew Ference, the Edmonton Oilers’ defenceman, support of the LGBTQ community is essential, an issue close to his heart.

Gay friend and former teammate asked him to lend support for pride tape

Dr. Kristopher Wells, left, and Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference display pride tape in support of the LGBTQ community. Wells was a key player in getting pride tape off the ground and Ference is a LGBTQ advocate. (CBC)

For Edmonton Oilers' defenceman Andrew Ference, supporting the LGBTQ community is essential and an issue close to his heart.

In that spirit of support, he asked some teammates to wrap their hockey sticks with pride tape, a new rainbow-coloured, professional hockey tape that promotes support for LGBTQ players.

The Oilers became the first NHL team to use it when Ference and some teammates unveiled the tape at their annual skills competition at Rexall Place on Sunday. 

A friend Ference played hockey with growing up asked the Oilers veteran to lend a hand.   

"He played hockey up until peewee, because peewee is when you have to start showering at the rink, and he was still in the closet, gay," Ference said. "(He) didn't feel like he could be himself in front of his teammates."

Getting his Oilers teammates on board wasn't difficult.

"It's not something that you have to go into the dressing room and twist guys' arms," Ference said.

"And I think that speaks volumes to hockey players being open to having good teammates."

Ference helped launch the Pride Tape campaign in December. 

Dr. Kristopher Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, came up with the concept for pride tape with Calder Bateman Communications.

Wells says this local initiative has a national reach, and reflects well on Edmonton because it shows the city fully supports inclusiveness and the LGBTQ community.

And he's extremely happy the Oilers are showing their support.

"Athletes have privilege and they have the power to be those role models," Wells said.