Manny Malhotra will March in Vancouver Pride Parade

Manny Malhotra faces some of the toughest circumstances in the league. He has a very specific job: win defensive zone draws, clear the puck and change. It’s not glamorous work, and it depresses his individual plus/minus numbers, which, in turn leads to questions about his effectiveness. But he does his job well, and handles himself with perpetual class.

That class is on display again. It was announced today, per an official press release on that Manny Malhotra has agreed to march in the Vancouver 2012 Pride Parade taking place Sunday August 5th, alongside Vancouver’s Gay Men’s Hockey Team "The Cutting Edges" and Patrick Burke of You Can Play.

Read on past the jump.

Malhotra will become the third active NHLer to march in a North American Pride Parade, joining Brent Sopel and Tommy Wingels (a College friend of Brendan Burke’s) both of whom marched in Chicago Pride Parades in 2010 and 2012 respectively. "It’s paramount that equality in sport, and beyond, becomes the norm," Malhotra told, "Everybody has the right to play the game they love. I am excited to share this message of equality and show my support this Sunday."

For the Canucks, showing this level of "official support," for You Can Play and their message of equality in sports strikes me as a big step. Patrick Burke seems to agree, describing the official support of NHL clubs as "vital" to the goals of the organization:

Its just as important to have the organizations on board as it is to have the players. The players control the culture. The teams control the jobs. The Canucks have now taken an official position that, "You Can Play" and LGBT athletes and fans know that Vancouver is a safe place.

In addition to Malhotra, the Canucks will have another team presence at the parade – they’re sending the team mascot Fin to march on Sunday as well. All silliness aside, mascots like Fin are emblematic embodiments of the franchise, who are primarily designed to appeal to children. To my ears, Fin’s presence carries some additional significance.

For centuries, homosexual men were described by the general public as "perverts," who posed a threat to children in particular. More recently, this sort of "fear" manifested itself in the legal fight over gay marriage, and one can find left over residue of this particular strain of intolerance in some people’s opinions regarding the adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Tolerance is one thing, and it’s important, but dignity is a higher value. The ability of LGTB people to form their own, legally protected family units was the Civil Rights triumph of our generation in Canada (and is an ongoing effort in the United States). So sending Fin – a character clearly aimed at families – to the Pride Parade is a bold, if subtle, statement by the organization in my view.

Lately, You Can Play has drawn some criticism (from myself, for example) partly because the organization is forgiving of intolerance as a matter of principle, and also because they remain staunchly apolitical in their messaging. All quibbles aside, You Can Play is carrying an essential torch. After all, competition incentivizes efficiency (intolerance is massively inefficient), and because familiarity breeds understanding, sports (and oddly, the military) has long been an essential incubator of social change. One may not always agree with everything You Can Play does, but the power and simplicity of their message is responsible for making moments and events like this possible.

Good on the Canucks for getting on board. This a proud day for the franchise, their fans and the city of Vancouver.