Hi. It’s been quite some time, hasn’t it? I really haven’t forgotten about you. Just been busy, I swear. I’ve logged quite a few travel miles (stay tuned) and finally have some downtime where I can be reacquainted with my sexy friends. Yes, I mean all of you. I’ll catch you up properly in due time. But first, wait, first let me refill your wine. You drank that awfully fast. I swear this will be interesting. And there will be semi-naked men involved! Because this story has hockey relations, but is mainly about gay pride. Toronto Pride, in fact. So now that you’re topped up, let me begin…
First a confession. Prior to last Sunday, I had never been to Pride. Yes, I know. You don’t need to say anything. I had watched on TV, heard stories from friends, but never went down. But this year, oh this year, I decided to partake. Of course it’s the year that the big Pride parade coincides with Canada Day, the end of Euro Cup, a Jays game and two music festivals. Toronto was a bit congested. I knew Patrick and Brian Burke would be there, as well as Scott Heggart, so I figured I’d represent my hockey self while celebrating Canada.
Yes, I’m wearing a Hockey Canada shirt. By my posters of the Canadian Men’s Olympic Champion hockey team from the 2010 Olympics. And my Canadian flag. And action figures of Crosby, Iginla and Luongo from the Olympics too. And Rick Nash poster. Yeah. And people say Canadians aren’t patriotic. I know you never would, but some people…
So I headed down, with a friend and to meet up with another. And let me tell you, ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh boy had I been missing out. Walking into the cordoned off area specially for Pride festivities was amazing from the first second. Tents of stuff to hand out, people enjoying diversity, food, music, just truly amazing. With only one complaint: apparently Pride is only capable of playing songs by Lady Gaga, Rihanna or Nicki Minaj. Without hyperbole, I heard “Where Have You Been”, “Star Ships”, “Super Bass” and “Born This Way” nearly exclusively.
I heard a few of those while waiting for a free whistle. Yes, I had to wait for a free whistle. Why? Because I had to take a picture to get one. Yes, it was an ordeal. I was so unbelievably hard done to get that whistle. I didn’t enjoy it at all. Not in the least. But as you know, I’m a tad OCD, so I naturally headed over to Yonge Street (the parade street) early to stake out my spot. Got a good one. Right by the TV cameras. Sadly, and I know you were watching, I didn’t get my small screen debut. Except for that one time my arm was on Hockey Night in Canada during a Leafs/Devils game back in 2003.
But I did get some decent pictures of the parade, excitedly looking forward to seeing the Burkes march with Rick Mercer, PFLAG on behalf of You Can Play. Naturally I was too excited clapping and blowing my whistle and cheering to take a picture of them, but I did get others… The whole parade was a joy. Cheering, whistle blowing, awkward waving, nudity… My first Pride certainly did not disappoint.
Then the colossal exodus to bars, street activities, transit happened. I had to make my way to Mick E. Fynn’s, as I was fortunate enough to be meeting up with Patrick, Scott and Scott’s boyfriend Brock. A tricky rest stop at the Loblaws grocery store built inside the shell of Maple Leaf Gardens (still a sacrilege in my mind) and a delightful j-walk in front of a streetcar later and we were in the packed pub..with everyone watching Spain beat up on Italy (it was 2-0 when we walked in).
How many times can it be said there was a gay hockey meet up after a gay pride parade? Probably not many, if any prior to this. But that’s just what this was. Gay hockey blogger, gay hockey player and his boyfriend, and a great ally and YCP founder in Patrick, getting together to shoot the shit, drink and discuss hockey and You Can Play.
Brock, Patrick, Scott and myself. Yes, I’m wearing a sticker that says gay. Just in case people forgot. And I’m wearing my whistle. And beads. My cargo shorts’ pockets are also full of free condoms. And a hat. And a bottle opener.
And that’s just what we did: talk. Well, as best we could over the screams of happy Spanish fans with their two subsequent goals. We talked about the parade (and all the whistle blowing), hockey, trades, things to do in the city…and being awkward white guys. A tip Patrick shared: if you’re an awkward white guy and need to dance in a club, utilize the “buttons and levers” technique. This is where you pretend to push buttons and pull levers instead of focussing to heavily on dancing. It works. Trust me, I tried it out and it works. Honestly, put on any dance song and pretend you’re some lever pulling button pusher. It gives you the mystique of rhythm. It’s truly wonderful. I, however, have the gift of dance. Or so an open bar of White Russians has me believe.
Some more serious things were talked about, naturally. You Can Play has blossomed from its humble beginnings, and rumblings back during my interview with Patrick many months ago. There are some big things in the pipeline. One thing, surely to warrant much attention, is the opening of their online store. The hopeful date is quite soon (mid-July), so please keep checking their site. Great products will be there. Some awesome stuff. We drank and carried on, realized Scott and I are terrible wingmen and just enjoyed each other’s company. Unfortunately the afternoon ended far too soon, but we will all meet up again. Guaranteed. I hope…
So that’s the story of my first Pride. Gay + Hockey. Quite literally. I couldn’t have been more proud. And look, we’ve polished off this bottle. I’ll have to get another ready for my upcoming travel pieces. Yes, I promise you’ll like it. OH! And PS, this happened: