skip navigation

Pride Tape Helps Josh Pauls Support Inclusion

By Heather Rule, 06/14/24, 1:30PM EDT


The U.S. National Sled Hockey Team captain focused on making sure the team’s locker room is a safe space.

Josh Pauls noticed when other hockey players started displaying Pride tape on their equipment long before he took over as the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team captain.

Therefore, he ordered a couple of rolls of tape for himself and has used the Pride tape for nearly a decade.

“The biggest reason for doing it is because I have friends in the LGBTQ+ community, and I hope to make our locker room a safe space,” Pauls said. “I want people to know they have an ally in me.”

The 31-year-old from Green Brook, New Jersey, is a four-time Paralympic gold medalist and six-time world champion. He was the captain of the 2018 and 2022 Paralympic Sled Hockey Teams that earned gold, and captain of the 2019, 2021 and 2023 U.S. National Sled Teams that took home gold medals at the World Para Ice Hockey Championship. 

Pauls said he’s taken his role as captain seriously and that his leadership has evolved over the years. He doesn’t speak as much as he used to when he first was named captain, for example, because he wants his words “to have a little bit more impact.”

Sometimes, though, leadership isn’t about words.

When he ordered the Pride tape, Pauls said it was to help support the makers of the tape monetarily, “at the very least.” In addition to being an ally for the LGBTQ+ community, he also wants people to understand that the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team wants to be accepting of everyone. 

Acceptance hits home within sled hockey.

“Everybody’s dealing with a disability,” Pauls said. “Everybody’s going through enough crap with that. We should all be included no matter what our orientations are.”

A couple of Pauls’ teammates asked if they could use some of his Pride tape, and he obliged. The more they can support the community, the better, he said. But he added that he doesn’t force anybody to use the tape either.

“I want its use to be genuine,” Pauls said. “I don’t want somebody to just put it on a stick and say, ‘I’m doing it because I’m a part of the team.’ I want them to truly understand and believe in the cause behind it.”

Pauls also backed up his Pride tape displays with actions. He conducted a donation campaign benefitting Pride STL (Pauls wanted to focus on a local organization, as he’s played for the St. Louis Blues sled team for years) leading up to the world championship in 2021. He asked people to match him, with the campaign based on how many points he scored and the number of wins the team had in the tournament. He said it was cool to have people backing him up with their donations.

Perhaps an unfortunate reality of using the Pride tape is the negative comments that are posted on social media. 

“It’s too bad that some people can’t understand acceptance and having pride in who you are. But you know what? I hope to try to change their minds a little bit. But if we can’t, then I’m going to at least be an ally for people that deserve that.”

Pauls has heard plenty of positive feedback on his choice to display Pride tape while he’s playing sled hockey. He’s heard the “thank you’s” for using the tape, while also hearing from those who are supportive and see that Pauls is someone they can trust, he said.

“Or, at the very least, make sure that the community is accepted in any locker room that I’m in,” Pauls said.

Pauls added that David Hoff, head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, has made it a point to instill in players that it’s the differences in people that make them who they are, and it also makes their team unique and successful as well. Their differences shouldn’t stop them from pulling together to have the same goal: Win a gold medal.

Overall, though, Pauls said he’s still learning about how to be an ally.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot,” Pauls said. “And that’s really kind of my message to people. It doesn’t take a whole lot to let people know that they’re a part of something. That they’re included. That they’re genuinely offered a spot at the table.” 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

More USA Hockey News