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Transgender hockey players embrace in a group hug

The NHL tweeted: "Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary identity is real."

The National Hockey League has officially voiced their support for transgender athletes.

Over the weekend, the Team Trans Draft Tournament took place in Middleton, Wisconsin. The event hosted six teams comprised of exclusively transgender and nonbinary athletes as a chance to showcase their skills.

The tournament was hosted by Team Trans Ice Hockey, a team formed in 2019 hailed as the first-ever ice hockey team made up entirely of transgender athletes. Team Trans features players from the United States, Canada, and Japan, hoping to "show transgender athletes of all ages—especially younger generations—that their dreams are not only valid but possible."

To mark the event, the official NHL account Tweeted: "The NHL is proud to support this past weekend's Team Trans Draft Tournament in Middleton, Wisconsin. This was the first tournament comprised entirely of transgender and nonbinary players, with around 80 folks participating! #HockeyIsForEveryone #NHLPride"

When one user replied, "So men playing on a womans team?" the NHL shot back. With a separate Tweet in response to the account, the League wrote: "Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary identity is real."

The Tweets have since been flooded with thousands of upset commenters, prompting the account to turn off replies. While many have voiced hatred, the NHL statement affirming transgender identities remains up, with nearly 42,000 likes.

One year ago in November 2021, the NHL website showcased an article featuring Team Trans Ice Hockey when they played against the Madison Gay Hockey Association. Alongside showcasing the event, the NHL provided travel funds for Team Trans.

At the time, the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly known as the National Women’s Hockey League, released a new inclusion policy to create a pathway for transgender participation in the sport. While players believe it is a step in the right direction, the vague language of the policies make it hard to gauge effectiveness.

After the policy updates, Team Trans' goaltender Mason LeFebvre explained to NBC News: “You could get a hormone exemption, so that someone like me theoretically could play in the league, but what does the exemption require? Maybe it’s completely reasonable stuff, maybe it’s not. We don’t know, because it’s not specific, and it might just be partially because you can’t be super specific on an individual basis."

While the NHL has not yet implemented similar policies, their vocal support of transgender athletes goes a long way, especially following the countless recent examples of violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, which include bans on trans participation in community or school sports leagues.

Avery Cordingley, who plays center for Team Trans, said that audiences should look at transgender athletes "as human beings with the same wants and needs as their own kids and their own friends."

They added: "It doesn’t matter what your gender identity is. Everyone wants that team, everyone wants to feel like they belong, everyone wants to play the game that brings them joy. We’re not blowing the competition away; we’re very average. They should just understand that trans athletes are regular athletes, and trans athletes can be very good at their sports, but so can cisgender athletes.”

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