Oilers captain first pro athlete to march in Edmonton Pride parade

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      Oilers captain Andrew Ference became the first professional athlete to march in 34th Edmonton's Pride parade, which was held on June 7.

      The defenceman (who is one year older than the parade), credited his time in Boston for helping him to become more accepting of LGBT people. There he met same-sex parents, who helped him see the personal lives of LGBT people. He also became friends there with Patrick Burke, who launched the You Can Play antihomophobia in sport campaign.

      He called the decision to march in the parade "kind of a no-brainer".

      In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, he said: “Making sure that (LGBT) youth know they have allies at the pro level, or whether it’s a teammate who might be thinking about coming out, or whatever it is, we want to make sure that it’s an accepting environment for everyone.”

      Ference, who was a major draw for audiences to the parade, marched with Camp fYrefly, a Canadian leadership retreat for LGBT youth, and he was also representing You Can Play.

      Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Alberta Premier Dave Hancock also participated in the parade.

      The parade, which had 80 floats, made its way through Edmonton's downtown core. The first Pride parade took place in the Albertan city in 1980 with only 75 people.

      Edmonton's Pride Festival continues until June 15.

      In Vancouver, Canucks players such as Manny Malhotra and Jason Garrison have previously marched in the Vancouver Pride parade.

      Edmonton City Hall flew a rainbow flag for the duration of the Sochi Olympics in Russia in February.
      Tyler McKay/Shutterstock