Members of the Göteborg Hockey Club teams, staff, and front office marched in West Pride in Göteborg on Saturday, June 15.
The parade marked part of West Pride’s four days of celebration: “By joining the parade, we can manifest human rights and join forces for a more inclusive society, free from prejudices and discrimination, not only in Sweden but in the rest of the world too,” writes the event’s website.
West Pride’s quest for inclusion mirrors GHC’s own stated vision and ethics. The club’s focus since day one has been on creating community and positive change through sport. Their core values, quoted in this article’s headers, are responsibility, commitment, joy, courage, and diversity, all of which are more than welcome at Pride and the community at large.
“We dare to be innovative and work for change and development.”
“Our club is located in Angered, an area in Gothenburg that struggles with social economic difficulties,” team communications member Fanny Mellgren Sjödahl told The Ice Garden.
Göteborg, better known in English as Gothenburg, is situated on Sweden’s west coast. It’s Sweden’s second-largest city after the capital Stockholm and as of 2018 the population is just under 572,000. Angered, a northeastern city suburb, is home to one of Sweden’s largest immigrant communities, with residents from over 100 nations making up half the district’s population. Foreigners from Iraq, Iran, Poland, Turkey, Somalia, and many more call Angered home; many have children who were born in Sweden. GHC’s work with Angered’s immigrant community and families was profiled in The Athletic in 2017.
Sjödahl continued, “When we started up in 2014 our association wanted to create a possibility for people in the area to play hockey for free. A main goal has always been that nobody should give hockey up because their family couldn’t afford it. Along with this we’ve always worked towards tolerance and respect.”
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Göteborg HC på förra årets Pride parad! Kika efter oss nu på lördag! Föreningsliv har ett stort ansvar i att visa vägen hur man visar respekt och medmänsklighet. Göteborg HC kommer alltid ha en värdegrund som värnar om alla människors lika värde, oavsett din läggning, kön, identitet eller etnicitet. Glad Pride allihopa! #westpride #föreningsliv #göteborghc
Tolerance and respect factored into the club’s decision to participate in EuroPride in 2018 and now West Pride in 2019.
In 2009 Sweden became the seventh country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Discrimination against gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people was added to the Penal Code in 1987, but transgender people weren’t included until over 20 years later. In addition, until 2013, transgender Swedes were legally required to undergo sterilization before their gender identity would be recognized.
Sweden is by no means the only country in Europe or globally to have or have had forced sterilization laws still on their books during the past decade: others include the United States, Japan, Finland, and Turkey.
“We stand for human rights and the equal value of all people.”
Pride is a reclamation and a declaration of the right to exist in public space and participate in public life. It’s a celebration of LGBTQIA+ history, community, identity, diversity, autonomy, and much more. It brings awareness to ongoing issues of inequality while advocating for both change and continued progress, which is right in line with the club’s tenets.
“Associations of every kind [have] an important role to play in showing the way of acceptance, respect and tolerance,” said Sjödahl. “We have several people in our club who [identify] within the LGBT+ community, and we want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome in our association, no matter what your economic status is, your gender, identity, or sexual orientation. A place where we can come together, play hockey and take care of each other.”
“For me Pride means that I can finally be myself, when I want and how I want. Pride means that everyone has an equal value, no matter your gender or skin,” said Sam O. Kljaic, a goaltender for GHC’s Division 2 team. “Without Pride I would’ve never been able to stand up to who I am today and who I want to be ahead. It is my second family.”
Said SDHL defender Matilda Carlsson, “Pride is EVERYONE’S equal value, no matter our differences!”
The club’s commitment to putting genuine actions behind attractive sentiments is as refreshing as it is rare. Certain Powers The Be in North America like to say, “hockey is for everyone.” In Göteborg, they’re working to make it a reality.