Quick Hits: Morgan Rielly Has Tangible Effect as a Leader In Toronto

09:00 AM EST
min - read
Josh Erickson
09:00 AM EST
min - read

Morgan Rielly Has Tangible Effect as a Leader In Toronto

Many organizations and individuals alike in the NHL fall short when it comes to general inclusivity in the sport.

A lot of players would agree with that statement, if asked.

Connor McDavid and Steven Stamkos both expressed their disappointment this week about the NHL restricting special event jerseys from being worn in warmups, taking away a major aspect of most teams’ Pride Night celebrations.

It’s even rarer, though, to find a player consistently outspoken about inclusivity — especially when it comes to fostering support for the LGBTQ+ community in a time where legal efforts to strip rights such as gender-affirming care are increasingly widespread.

Over the past few seasons, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly has emerged as an ally, embedding himself as a crucial part of the organization’s culture in the process.

Toronto’s 2023 edition of Pride Night made headlines for the right reasons.

The team brought in New Jersey Devils assistant general manager Meghan Duggan to speak to both the Maple Leafs and their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, ahead of an early April game, with the team posting a clip of her talk, which gained some virality on social media.

In doing so, the Maple Leafs covered a key portion of Pride that many teams don’t acknowledge — why it should actually matter to the players wearing the jerseys, other than from a basic human rights standpoint.

People often won’t engage in issues unless they glean a personal understanding or are affected by them personally, something that’s not always common across such an insular sport as hockey.

Including an experience that clearly revolved around humanizing the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in sports was an overlooked step forward in how NHL teams engage with Pride Nights.

Does that happen without a player like Rielly in the room, who’s undoubtedly challenged the organization to think about inclusivity with his consistent, unprompted support of Pride?  

He’s walked in many Toronto Pride parades as a representative of the team.

He told the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan in June that he’ll “support [Pride], no matter what, whether we wear jerseys or not.”

Mentioning Rielly’s involvement in Pride initiatives wouldn’t be fair without acknowledging likely influences in his public support, including Brian Burke, the general manager who drafted him.

One of the most public figures in the NHL when it comes to LGBTQ+ initiatives, Burke was a consistent participant in Toronto Pride events as far back as the early 2010s.

If anything, it proves that installing people in high-end leadership positions on or off the ice who truly care can and will take targeted measures to address social issues.

Cover Picture from USA Sports

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