Wolves excited to show their Pride

For the first time, the Wolves are hosting Pride Night. The team is donating $5 from every Pride Night ticket sold to the Center on Halsted, the Chicago Gay Hockey Association has pregame ice time, and LGBTQ wrestler Kiera Hogan will perform the ceremonial puck drop

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Wolves forward Curtis McKenzie has been an advocate of the LGBT movement, and was friends with Brendan Burke.

Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Saturday’s game against Rockford will be special for Wolves account executive Nicholas Cottrell. It will also be meaningful for forward Curtis McKenzie.

For the first time, the Wolves, who faced the IceHogs on Friday, are hosting Pride Night. The team is donating $5 from every Pride Night ticket sold to the Center on Halsted, the Chicago Gay Hockey Association has pregame ice time, and LGBTQ wrestler Kiera Hogan will perform the ceremonial puck drop, among other festivities surrounding the game. Cottrell and a group of Wolves employees also spent part of Tuesday at the Center on Halsted volunteering.

Cottrell, who is gay, pitched holding a Pride Night in June. He has spearheaded this event, and said he feels excited and nervous as it approaches, but “I think that any time you do something daring like this, if you don’t have butterflies, why are you doing it at all?”

“I’m hopeful,” said Cottrell, who also co-established Pride Night with the Milwaukee Bucks when he worked for that franchise. “I think that, unfortunately, sports when it comes to social change just takes a little while. I’m glad that the Wolves are going to stand on the right side of history.”

McKenzie, meanwhile, played for Miami (Ohio) and was on the hockey team when Brendan Burke died in an automobile crash in 2010. Burke, the son of famed executive Brian Burke, was a student manager/assistant with Miami and came out as gay and advocated for acceptance in hockey before his death.

McKenzie got involved with the You Can Play Project while in college, and was the Dallas Stars’ first ambassador to the Hockey Is For Everyone program. He thinks Burke would be happy with how acceptance has progressed, and relishes his friend’s legacy.

“We’re really happy to jump on board,” McKenzie said. “It’s something that I’ve had a connection with and always enjoy being a part of and being a voice for it. I’m happy were doing it here.”

Cottrell has goals in mind for the event.

“I wanted to be able to remind Chicagoland that it doesn’t matter anything about your gender identity, your sexual orientation, truly how you present yourself to the world,” Cottrell said. “Regardless of if it’s a rink or a field or a court, it’s what kind of athlete are you and what are you doing for the city that you represent.

“I really think that if there’s at least one person in the arena on Saturday that feels a little bit more comfortable and feels confident in what could happen for their future one day, that’s a win to me.”

That echoes McKenzie’s thoughts. He hopes it’s “prideful” for the LGBT movement and can create unity.

“We’re just trying to show we’re open to it as sports teams and try to lead the way for other people to jump on board for that way,” McKenzie said. “Just trying to show that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, what you believe in, that this world can get along and that’s what we want to promote.”

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