Scott Laughton PHI King Clancy Blog main

Editor’s Note: The King Clancy Memorial Trophy is presented annually to the NHL Player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. Each NHL Club nominates a player to be considered for this recognition, and each nominee has a unique and powerful connection to his community efforts. The winner of the award will be announced on May 28. Today, the Philadelphia Flyers’ nominee for the 2023-24 season -- Scott Laughton -- shares his story.

When you make it to the NHL, you realize how special it is to have a platform. It’s a chance to be the kind of player that you looked up to when you were a kid.

You also realize how important it is to use your platform because it’s not going to last forever. I’ve always been conscious of the short window we have to make a difference through our position in the NHL. I see it as extra motivation to get involved in the causes I care about.

One of those causes is LGBTQ+ equality.

Like many people in and around hockey, this cause is personal for me. I’m close to someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve seen firsthand what the community goes through -- which is often a combination of hate, anger, and miseducation that causes a lot of hurt. Knowing how these experiences affect someone on a day-to-day basis gives me an important reason to speak up.

At the same time, I understand there are a lot of people who don’t have a “reason” -- because they don’t have anyone in their life who identifies as LGBTQ+.

However, it’s important to be able to break down your own biases and beliefs surrounding a topic, and humanize the people in the community they may be affecting. Why should I be treated, viewed, or welcomed any differently in society than a person raised alongside me? Someone with the same values, manners, and appreciation of love and respect for a partner in their life, just because it may not look the same as what has been accepted as ‘normal’ for years?

You don’t need to know someone who is LGBTQ+ to care about their experiences, to believe they deserve fair treatment, and to want to help create a more welcoming environment.

I think hockey can and should play a role in creating that environment. I’ve been proud to partner with You Can Play -- an organization that works to support inclusion for LGBTQ+ people to participate in sports as athletes, coaches, and fans -- to promote culture change in our game.

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Pride in the hockey community to me is about eliminating long-standing stereotypes on both sides. An athlete could be assumed to be aggressive, insensitive, or unaccepting. These traits are not only stereotypical but can be intimidating to others. I’m very grateful to Hockey is for Everyone for giving me an opportunity to share my views, break down these barriers, and form genuine connections.

For this reason, I have been proud to invite LGBTQ+ fans to the Wells Fargo Center and encourage them to be their full self while cheering for the Flyers.

A few years ago, I worked with my former teammate, James van Riemsdyk, to launch a program where we donated tickets to local LGBTQ+ organizations to be our guests at home games throughout the season. It’s been amazing to see that program grow -- especially at this year’s Pride Game, where I was able to host more than 50 guests from the past three seasons to come back and represent the strength of the community.

Every postgame meet-and-greet sticks with you, but this one really meant a lot. Having all our past guests in the same room again gave me the chance to learn more about their stories, show my support, and continue building relationships that have become very special to me.

Everyone comes to the NHL with various experiences. A team is a mix of players from different countries, provinces, and states. Our different cultural upbringings shape us and our views. Throughout a season we get to know and respect some of these differences, and put others aside as we come together for the sake of the team. We all treat each other with respect, and when I got involved in Hockey is for Everyone, I felt it was something I could speak to my teammates about on a more personal level. I could give them insight into my experiences as a witness to some of the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.

I’m still learning, too. And I want to learn more. That’s one of the reasons I was grateful to visit the Mazzoni Center, an organization that provides comprehensive health and wellness services for LGBTQ+ people in Philadelphia.

In January, I asked Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee if they’d want to join me in seeing the Mazzoni Center’s work. They said yes right away -- and so did Dan Hilferty, the Governor of the Flyers. The four of us spent time touring their facility and gaining a better understanding of the challenges that LGBTQ+ people can face in healthcare settings. Together, we were proud to contribute a total donation of $35,000 to support the Mazzoni Center’s efforts to provide inclusive care.

Scott Laughton PHI King Clancy Blog Mazzoni Center

There’s a lot more work to do to promote inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community, but I know there are many leaders on and off the ice who will keep the movement going.

If I think back to my earliest NHL days in 2013, so much has changed. We’ve come a long way toward eliminating language and jokes that have homophobic undertones. Awareness of different identities is growing. And more and more players are confidently stepping up as allies and advocates for inclusion.

I hope each of our platforms will leave an impact that pushes our sport and society forward.

And to any LGBTQ+ kids who are looking up to players in the NHL: I hope they know hockey welcomes them, and supports them, and encourages them to be who they are. I hope they continue to play and love this game. And I hope we continue to do everything we can to create the environment they deserve.

It’s important to me that I thank the countless volunteers at the Mazzoni Center, as well as the other Philadelphia-based organizations I have been lucky to work with, including the Ronald McDonald House (RMHC) and Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

From members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, families and children calling RMHC home, and the rescue animals receiving care, it's really remarkable what people can accomplish when they come together for a great cause. It's an honor to give to these organizations in Philadelphia when they have given me such a sense of community in return.

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