QUEERTY REPORTS — Like a burning forest fire, the global financial panic is burning everything in its path; businesses are folding, workers are being laid off, and now the burning embers of recession threaten to melt the ice for GForce, America’s national LGBT hockey team.
The team, made up of LGBT athletes from L.A., New York, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and elsewhere across the country lost their sponsors this year — and the team’s continued existence is in peril.
“We were saddened but not surprised that our private philanthropists and corporate sponsors pulled out this year,” David Farber, one of the team’s centers, tells Queerty. “With a hard fought political campaign, Prop 8, and a severe economic downturn we were expecting to lose some sponsorship, but not all of it! We are now looking to non-corporate sponsors and grassroots support to help keep this great non-profit alive and spread the message of GForce.”
Each year the team puts on a hockey tournament in Aspen, CO during Gay Ski Week, called “The Friendship Cup,” which pits Team GForce against an all-star straight team, with GForce winning the last three consecutive games in a row. Because the team is spread out across the country, it’s only after games and tournaments that they get the chance to practice, but still, last year they won 7-3.
While the guys on the team are bound together by a mutual love of hockey and guys, they see what they do as a lot more than just sport. There’s a need for a “gay team,” explains Farber:
“We started this organization to provide an example to both the straight and LGBT community to show them that being gay or lesbian can go hand-in-hand with competitive athleticism. We saw the lack of good LGBT role models for gay youth and a lack of awareness of LGBT athletes in the greater sporting community and decided to form GForce in order to work to fill that void. The day that LGBT athletes are fully accepted into our nations sporting community, GForce will probably become irrelevant – and we can only hope that day is sooner rather than later.”
That’s not to say that the team doesn’t have fun with their message. Their favorite thing to do after a winning game? Farber laughs and says, “We drink. A lot.”
In fact, sometimes it’s only at the bar that the opposing team finds out that they had been playing against (and lost to) a gay team. “Many teams we played against were surprised to hear about “the nature” of our team, and the overwhelming majority of our opponents were supportive,” says Farber.
But the costs of running the Friendship Cup have swelled to over $30,000 as the event has grown in popularity. And without a sponsor this year, it looks like there will be no joy, or friendship, in Aspen.
The team has raised $3,000, but say they need a minimum of $10,000 to hold the event. “If 70 people gave $100, we would be all set,” Farber offers.
So what’s the best part of being on a gay hockey team? Farber keeps it real:
The locker room of course! But seriously, the best part of being on GForce has to be theÂ camaraderieÂ of all the players on the team and the welcoming environment that allows each player to be himself and not hide in the face of the prevailing hetero-machismo of sports culture.
If you want to donate to the team, you can donate to Team GForce here. They’re a 5013c non-profit, so your donation is tax-exempt.
Team GForce’s win last year in Aspen was also the subject of a short documentary, which is worth a look because not only do the players talk about their experiences being on straight teams and the homophobia they face, you get plenty of interesting man-on-the-street interviews from people learning about the existence of a gay hockey team … and there’s also plenty of locker room shots.