BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Penguins beat the Sabres 3-2 on Saturday in the NHL’s first joint Pride Game to promote and celebrate LGBTQ-plus communities.
Before the game broadcast nationally on NBC, both teams warmed up wearing jerseys with rainbow-colored numbers on the back and sticks bearing rainbow-colored tape, and using commemorative pucks with multicolored designs. The items are to be auctioned. Proceeds from the Sabres’ items will go to the Pride Center of Western New York and GLYS, a western New York group offering services for LGBTQ-plus people ages 5-21 and their friends. Proceeds from the Penguins’ items will go to the You Can Play Project, which works to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports; and the Pittsburgh Tigers, an organization that creates a supportive environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other minority hockey players and fans.
The You Can Play Project was founded by Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke, a longtime executive in the NHL, and his son Patrick in honor of the late Brendan Burke, Brian’s son and Patrick’s brother.
Brendan was an athlete and was student manager of the Miami (Ohio) hockey team when he died in a 2010 car accident after becoming one of the first people closely affiliated with the NHL to come out as gay. In 2012, Brian and Patrick helped launch the You Can Play project.
“To the LGBTQ-plus community, you are welcome in our building, you are welcome on our teams, you are welcome to come watch our games,” Brian Burke said. “The message is much broader than sports. We don’t care who you go home with, we don’t care what church you go to, we don’t care what color you are. If you can play and help our team win, you can play.”
The teams donated 100 tickets to LGBTQ-plus organizations, and each fan received a rainbow-colored rally towel. The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus performed the Canadian and U.S. anthems.
The Sabres’ loss helped make them the first team eliminated from playoff contention as Buffalo matched the league record in extending its playoff drought to a 10th consecutive year. The Rangers’ win over the Devils earlier in the day combined with the Sabers’ loss to seal Buffalo’s fate.
Bryan Rust and Evan Rodrigues scored second-period goals in helping the Penguins improve to 10-2-2 in their past 14 games. Tristan Jarry stopped 23 shots over the final two periods and 28 overall. Bryan Rust and Jared McCann also scored, and the Penguins moved one point ahead of the idle Islanders for second in the East Division.
“We’re just trying to get better as a team so we can be going strong the rest of the season into the playoffs,” Rodrigues said.
Tage Thompson and Casey Mittelstadt scored for Buffalo. Dustin Tokarski stopped 38 shots in the loss, coming two days after the former Lightning goalie picked up his first win in more than five years.
“Obviously, there are some things we can build on and take into the next game,” Mittelstadt said.
The teams play again Sunday.
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