Halifax LGBTQ hockey tournament drawing interest across Canada, U.S.
Players from as far away as Minnesota, B.C. have signed up to compete
While the NHL playoffs kicked off this week, LGBTQ hockey players from all over North America are beginning to gear up for a hockey tournament of their own in Halifax.
For the first time, a group called Queer Hockey Nova Scotia is organizing what they're calling the HFX Pride Cup, which will run from July 21 to 23.
Six teams made up entirely of players from the LGBTQ community have already signed up to compete.
"We have two fully trans teams, which is super exciting," said Jay McKellar, founder of Queer Hockey Nova Scotia.
He said players from as far away as Minnesota, Wisconsin, British Columbia and Ontario will be coming to the province for the competition.
This is "creating a small hockey community within Nova Scotia that prioritizes queer athletes and [gives] them a safe space to not only play a sport they love, but also be themselves," said David Lewis, one of the organizers.
Max Denley, from Oshawa, Ont., is the captain of Trans Canada Express, a team in the tournament made up entirely of Canadian trans players. He said there are a lot of things you don't have to worry about when playing on an all-trans team.
"Locker rooms are a place where a lot of people have experienced exclusion or harassment or any number of things," Denley said, "so being in a space as a trans person can be really scary.
"There's a lot of trans people who had to step away from hockey when they transitioned, or there wasn't really a place for them to play safely through their transition," he said.
Denley has played hockey his whole life and was transitioning while playing for the women's club team at Acadia University.
He put together his Pride Cup team with a friend, reaching out to connections they had made through past hockey events.
"We're just really excited to go and to get to play hockey together," Denley said.
Sixty-five participants have signed up so far. Each team will be guaranteed to play four or five games. The first two days of the tournament will be round-robin, followed by the championships on the final day.
McKellar said the public will be able to attend the tournament through a pay-what-you-can system.
"We want to increase the amount of people coming to watch," Lewis said. "We don't want to put a financial burden on the community members that are interested in it."
Putting on the competition will cost between $9,000 and $11,000, he said.
It's more work than expected, McKellar said, but he's doing it "for the joy that it brings to have your community supporting you, playing against you.
"There's just something very different about playing against [what is] your family, basically."
The Pride Cup will be held in Halifax at the Centennial Arena. Queer Hockey Nova Scotia will release more details in the coming months on their website and social media pages.