We were already excited about the official participation of the Vancouver Canucks, and defensive specialist Manny Malhotra in Sunday’s Vancouver Pride Parade. But then on Saturday afternoon, the team’s official mascot – a 7 foot tall Orca named Fin – announced on Twitter that newly signed defenseman, White Rock native and future fan favorite Jason Garrison will be joining Malhotra in representing the organization at the parade:
Just found out Jason Garrison will be joining Manny and I at Pride Parade in support of Right To Play initiative. Going to be a scorcher!
— FIN (@CanucksFIN) August 4, 2012
Read past the jump.
The Canucks will now be sending two active players to this weekend’s public march, as well as their mascot, which, represents an unprecedented degree of involvement by an NHL club in their cities Pride Parade. Tommy Wingels and Brent Sopel have marched previously in Chicago, while both Brian and Patrick Burke are a fixture at Toronto’s annual Pride Parade, but the level of the Vancouver Canucks’ participation in this weekends Vancouver Pride event is still unique.
As Daniel Gawthrop – a member of Western Canada’s only gay hockey team the Cutting Edges – wrote in the Tyee, the official support of Malhotra and the Canucks (and now Garrison) sends a strong message:
Tomorrow afternoon, as he waves to the Denman Street crowds from one of North America’s largest processions of drag queens, leather men, and dykes on bikes, Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra will play a big role in helping slay the dragon of homophobia in professional sport. Just by showing up at the Pride parade, along with Patrick Burke of the “You Can Play” project and Canucks mascot “Fin,” Malhotra will send the message that anti-gay bigotry has no place in Canada’s national game or the NHL itself, that gay hockey players can and do play in the NHL — although still not openly — and that gay fans, media and advertising are also welcome.
The Canucks’ involvement will endear them to the (mostly) socially liberal denizens of Vancouver, which, is something of a departure from what we saw earlier this offseason – when a string of individual members of the organization participated in events that "tread somewhat on the [political] sensibilities of a majoirty of Vancouverites." Here’s what we wrote way back in June, in the wake of anthem singer Mark Donnelly’s participation in the Vancouver launch of an anti-abortion campaign called the: "New Abortion Caravan":
In April, Paolo Aquilini asked Louie Giglio to pray for the health of Daniel Sedin and in May, Canucks forward David Booth boasted about his hunting exploits on Twitter, and posted a video of him successfully killing a baited bear with a bow and arrow (that video was later removed). Guns and god don’t tend to play that well in Vancouver proper, a city that leans leftward on cultural and political issues. In the country as a whole, a clear plurality of Canadians identify themselves as "pro-life" and only 27% of respondents to a 2010 EKOS poll identified themselves as "Anti-Abortion."
We’ve commented before on the Canucks seeming preference for a "low-risk" approach to brand building in the digital space. As Harrison Mooney recently put it, "The Canucks are committed to building the most fan-friendly, inclusive, inoffensive brand for their players as possible," but as we’ve seen consistently this season: events on the ground have made that nigh impossible at times.
It might be tempting to see the unprecedented level of support the organization is showing for Vancouver Pride as a reaction of sorts to the public relations pitfalls that several individual members of the organization fell into this offseason. But I think that’s an overly simplistic way to look at things, and doesn’t give the organization the credit they’re due.
The Vancouver citizenry may lean liberal, especially on social issues, but the organization’s support for Pride isn’t "safe" in my view. In fact, the club is making a potent political statement that, as Gawthrop put it, "gay fans and media are welcome." That’s not be a controversial point of view for the majority of Vancouverites, but this isn’t a statement that the club has gone out of their way to make in the past and for the Canucks to do so now remains powerful, and commendable.