Back in 2017 the Blues hosted their first Pride Night, and by most measures, it was successful. The next year was no different - the Blues openly participated in a league-wide trend, and it appeared that they would continue to do so.
Last season, the Blues decided to turn Pride Night into a Hockey is for Everyone theme night. Gone were the rainbow flags and other explicitly LGBTQ friendly trappings, and people noticed. In a statement to Boom, the Blues attributed the re-brand to the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative:
“Starting last year, the NHL created the “Hockey is For Everyone” initiative league-wide,” said Blues Operations Director, Jason Pippi, of the changes. “The goal is to communicate that hockey is an all-inclusive sport for fans, players and staff. We made every effort to recognize as many communities as possible, including the LGBTQ community. I’m sorry that you were underwhelmed with the overall theme last night. As we continue to go forward, we are continuously learning and tweaking to try to find the right balance of community representation. So this feedback is really helpful to the Blues to make sure we are hitting our marks in upcoming years.”
The team still called the night Pride Night during promotions, and ticket sales included a rainbow expandable backpack, a portion of tickets sold went to The You Can Play Project, but the outward signs that it was Pride Night were gone. The night’s name was also scrubbed from the Blues’ website.
The night was held in February, during Black History Month, so a push for inclusivity by the league is a given - but other teams held Pride Nights, and some members of the Blues fanbase hoped that the team would in fact “hit their mark” this year.
February came and went, and there was neither a Pride Night nor a Hockey is for Everyone night. Today, the second day of Women’s History Month, the Blues tweeted this:
Join us for the #HockeyIsForEveryone Celebration and Watch Party on March 24 at Enterprise Center! https://t.co/1wwJj9eWCU #stlblues— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) March 2, 2020
Presumably, the Blues are marketing toward the LGBTQ and African American communities as well as women fans - at a watch party for a road game.
The Blues are focused at getting revenue for a bonus night of concession sales, and they’re also attempting to create an environment where people who may feel uncomfortable around women, black people, and LGBTQ folks can just not attend. It’s not a fun environment for the targeted audience; it’s insulting.
If an adult person doesn’t know how to act in the presence of people that may not be like them, that should be no one else’s issue but that person’s. No one is going to force anyone to be the bowling pins in a game of intermission Drag Queen Ice Bowling presented by Hamburger Mary’s against their will. You can’t “celebrate inclusion and social change” when you’re too scared to talk about it at a game.
There are 42 nights available for a theme night (and one of them was already Ladies’ Night). You can split this up. The Blues already planned on lumping groups together, and Moe wrote about that back in January. Their excuse was that the NHL was moving away from Pride Night and toward Hockey is for Everyone.
This was promptly disproven by many other teams hosting their own nights.
I’m a noted fan of theme nights and wish that every single game of the season could be one. The fact that the Blues are missing three (or four, if they’re including disability inclusion in this evening) very distinct chances to sell ticketed theme night packages and raise money for charities is disappointing.
Would you rather see the Blues hold a “Metro STL Ethnicities” night where they had people of French, German, Irish, Bosnian, and Italian descent all lumped together, or would you be more prone to want to go and celebrate each individual culture with a Mardi Gras night, an Oktoberfest evening, a St. Pats’ game, a Bosnian heritage night, and a night celebrating The Hill? Where would you get more bang for your buck? Where, if you’re part of one of these groups, would you feel most represented and able to have the best time? Do you want to eat schnitzel and soda bread or would you rather just go on a night that’s your own?
Lumping everyone together in a Hockey is for Everyone night is lazy. Making it an away-game watch party turns the whole thing into an afterthought. If you can’t say anything nice to someone, you shouldn’t say anything at all - and maybe if you can’t plan a nice theme night, you should just leave it off of the calendar entirely.
UPDATE: The Blues responded to USA Today’s Hemal Jhaveri with a statement regarding HIFE Night:
Update: The St. Louis Blues’ Mike Caruso, Vice President of Media & Brand Communications, replied to FTW’s request for comment via email. He was not reachable by phone. His answers are below, unedited.
On why the Hockey is for Everyone event is talking place as a watch party and not during a home game:
Due to unprecedented ticket demand and sales following last season’s success, we weren’t able to execute as many ticket promotions as we have in the past. However, instead of foregoing Hockey Is For Everyone completely, we wanted brainstorm ways to continue its application. That is where the idea of a watch party came in. This allows us to open the entire building – over 18,000 seats – for the event, instead of having just a couple hundred available for a home game. In addition, it afforded us the opportunity to introduce a charitable element where groups can sell tickets as a fundraiser and get $5 of each sale donated back to their organization. We also have the flexibility to completely tailor our game presentation and in-game activations to the HIFE initiative – something we couldn’t do at a normal home game due to pre-sold sponsorship/partner elements. Our watch parties garnered national acclaim during the playoffs last season and we are hoping to duplicate that atmosphere with this year’s HIFE event.
On the Blues’ decision to forgo a Pride Night for the 2019-2020 season:
A couple of years ago we rolled PRIDE under the Hockey Is For Everyone umbrella. The idea was to be as inclusive as possible. A night or event to recognize all walks of life no matter the sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or physical or mental handicap.
The press release for the watch party states that proceeds from the HIFE event will benefit participating organizations. Would you be able to name a few of the organizations that will be receiving funds?
That is correct. ALL proceeds will benefit the participating organizations and our charitable trust, Blues For Kids. As of now, we have over 20 organizations signed up.