By: Chris Allman
Are you a fan of ice hockey, and have always wanted to learn how to play the game? Or perhaps you played growing up, and always wished that there was an LGBTQIA hockey organization in Rochester that could fill that void while creating a new social outlet for you?
I am happy to inform you that if either of these are true for you, Rochester Pride Hockey is here, and we are hoping that you’ll get involved!
The entire concept of Rochester Pride Hockey came full circle after I moved to Rochester in July 2018 after living in Madison, Wisconsin for a little over 2 years. During my time in Madison, I was fortunate enough to lace up my skates and get involved with the Madison Gay Hockey Association (MGHA). The organization was created to provide ice hockey opportunities to our community and over time had built itself up to a full 10-team league. The MGHA has successfully created a positive, inclusive environment for members of the LGBTQIA community to get together and play what I personally believe to be the greatest sport on earth – ice hockey.
I was fortunate enough to grow up playing the game and eventually began officiating, which turned into a 20-year career for me. While the perception of most sports is less than ideal when it comes to inclusion, the game of ice hockey certainly goes against that grain. I have been heavily involved at both the amateur and professional levels of hockey, and I have always found nothing but incredible levels of support and understanding as an openly gay participant of the game.
While working full time as a referee, I met Chris Woodworth, who worked beside me for many years, and was too an openly gay man. We became great friends, and while he got out of the game sooner than I did, we remained in touch ever since – which brings me back to the point in my story of when I moved to Rochester.
In July of 2018, Chris offered me a position working with the team at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex, where he has been acting as General Manager since 2012. The idea of creating an inclusive hockey organization in Rochester was something he had desired for many years, so once I was onboard at the Iceplex, the concept of Rochester Pride Hockey was born.
To grow this organization, we knew that we would need to teach new adults the game of hockey, and also identify LGBTQIA players in the community in an effort to make them aware of this opportunity.
The challenge that adults face in getting involved in the game late in life is that traditionally there are no programs catered to that group, as all opportunities to learn the game are designed for children. I was pleased to learn that the Iceplex had been running an adult learn to play hockey program for many years, one that has taught over 1,200 adults the game since 2012, called the Never Ever League.
This program is widely successful and is set in an insanely positive environment. For that reason, it echoed the exact tones of how Rochester Pride Hockey would operate, so we naturally partnered up with the Never Ever League as a means of teaching Rochestarians how to play hockey, and get involved with Rochester Pride Hockey.
If you are an adult that is new to the game and have an interest in learning more about this great program, visit our website and read the information provided on the Never Ever League. You will learn all about this great opportunity to get in the game, but will also be able to take advantage of the special discounted price for registration that is exclusive to Rochester Pride Hockey (RPH20 will get you 20% off).
In an effort to locate existing players that are currently in our community, we are hopeful that this article will assist. We will be holding a friendly pick-up game of hockey at the Iceplex on Sunday, August 11 th starting at 1:30 pm. Any players out there that would like to participate in RPH are urged to attend for some friendly fun on the ice. We will also be holding an informational session afterwards to inform all about our plans for this new initiative in Rochester. The Iceplex Adult Hockey League is also having their championship games for the summer session afterwards so everyone can watch some action!
Our website is full of information, so anyone that is interested should visit us there (rochesterpridehockey.com) and are welcome to reach out to us through the website with any questions.
In addition, we will be present at this year’s Rochester Pride activities and will be available to chat face to face, answer any questions, and share our vision for Rochester Pride Hockey.
Not only is the game of ice hockey a sport that I strongly feel is the most skilled and action packed of them all, it also does something that very few sports do – it creates incredibly strong bonds for those who play, acts as a positive social structure that makes life more enjoyable, and is great exercise to boot.
Hockey has played a huge positive influence and addition to my life, and I look forward to being able to share those opportunities with the LGBTQIA community in Rochester so that it can do the same for others!