To date, there has never been an openly gay NHL player, according to an Outsports article published in 2018. Although programs, such as the You Can Play project, have been created to stimulate inclusion in hockey, the perception of hostility toward LGBT athletes remains. In order to combat this negative perception of hockey, Chris Allman and Chris Woodworth created the Rochester Pride Hockey organization at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex.

Who They Are

Chris Allman moved to Rochester in July 2018 from Madison, Wis. to work as the program manager at Bill Gray’s Iceplex. While Allman lived in Wisconsin, he played in the Madison Gay Hockey Association (MGHA), which is one of the largest gay hockey leagues in the United States.

“The inclusiveness of the MGHA really blew my mind,” Allman said. “We didn’t go over like how good of a skater, shooter or passer are you. We literally went over pronouns for our first practice.”

This inclusiveness inspired Allman to start a similar program at the Iceplex. When Allman was recruited by his friend, Chris Woodworth, to work as the program manager at the ice area, both he and Woodworth decided to use the model from MGHA to start Rochester Pride Hockey.

In the summer of 2019, the Rochester Pride Hockey league was launched. Since the launch of the league, there have been recurring scrimmages on Friday nights. In December, Allman hopes to launch a draft league, where two or more teams are drafted to play top to bottom for an eight-week season.

What They Stand For

In addition to playing games, Allman plans to incorporate social events. The league will attend the Rochester Americans' (Amerks) Pride Night on Jan. 17, 2020, where they will have a shootout during the first intermission. Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex already has a strong partnership with the Amerks, as the team practices at the Iceplex facility and has a locker room there. This, combined with the Pride Night, makes it an ideal time for the Rochester Pride Hockey team to participate.

"They're going to be really celebrating us out there on the ice and in front of the entire crowd," Allman said.

Most importantly, Allman hopes that the Rochester Pride Hockey will create a fostering environment for LGBT people. When Allman was growing up, he was the captain of his football and hockey team, but he hid his sexuality from his teammates. He feared what they would think of him.

"I was closeted, [and] being in the closet in a sports environment is a scary place — like the worst-case scenario scary," he said.

However, Allman soon realized that it was only the negative perception of sports that made coming out so daunting.

“What I thought was going to happen was the exact opposite of what was going to happen," Allman said, "which is what I hope we can do for the LGBT community here in Rochester."

He came out and was met with positivity from his teammates. Now, he looks to foster an environment through Rochester Pride Hockey where players feel safe and can have another outlet for sports, entertainment and a healthy fitness lifestyle.