Brian Burke may be the general manager for a hockey team I love to hate, but he earns new found respect from me today. I’ve always thought he was a tough guy but also a good guy. After all, he’s not afraid to take public transportation in a city where everyone thinks they know better than he does (before anyone gripes, it’s the same thing in Montreal). I’m not sure when this news was made official (if these kinds of things can be made official) but I read today that Brian Burke’s son, Brendan, came out of the closet to his dad who unflichingly told his son, “This won’t change a thing.” John Buccigross has a great narrative of how the whole thing happened over at ESPN. Definitely worth a read.
This falls right in line with a post of mine from about a week ago. Brendan Burke felt compelled to quit the hockey team in his senior year because the gay slurs were getting to be too much to deal with. Buccigross puts it like this (written from Brendan’s perspective):
The real reason you choose not to play your senior year is because the atmosphere in the locker room gets progressively harder to deal with as you get older. Homophobic slurs become as commonplace as rolls of hockey tape. Pressure to hook up with girls gets more intense. You are really upset for a couple of months. Your mom later tells you she thought you were depressed. Back then, she keeps asking you if something is wrong, but you don’t want to talk about it with anyone.
I really admire the way Brian Burke has faced the media to support, not only his son, but all gay athletes: “Can a gay man advance in professional hockey? He can if he works for the Toronto Maple Leafs!” For a man who commands the kind of respect Brian Burke does to use the words gay and hockey in the same sentence in a positive way is definitely a step in the right direction.
(Thanks to Brez for sending me the link)
UPDATE – Apparently Brendan saw the same article that I commented on a couple weeks ago in my post on gay slurs in hockey. He thanked the Justin Bourne for broaching the subject and it snowballed into the piece written by John Buccigross that appeared on the ESPN site yesterday. Today Brian and Brendan were interviewed by TSN’s James Duthie. I can’t link to the video but it’s in the video player at TSN.ca/nhl. Brendan says something that I think is important to mention. A lot of the hockey players casually tossing around gay slurs aren’t necessarily doing it out of any prejudice against gays. It’s just an unfortunate choice of words. Check out the TSN interview and, yeah, that’s about the most emotion Brian Burke ever shows.