November 28, 2009

One Family and a Hockey Team Strike Back at Homophobia

There is a wonderful story on about how a young man named Brenda Burke told his family and friends he was gay. What makes this story out of the ordinary and noteworthy of coverage by ESPN is that the young man's father is the general manager of a team in the National Hockey League, and the son works with the hockey team at the University of Miami-Ohio, currently the top ranked team in U. S. college hockey. Here's a quote from the father, Brian Burke:

"I had a million good reasons to love and admire Brendan. This news didn't alter any of them.

I would prefer Brendan hadn't decided to discuss this issue in this very public manner. There will be a great deal of reaction, and I fear a large portion will be negative. But this takes guts, and I admire Brendan greatly, and happily march arm in arm with him on this.

There are gay men in professional hockey. We would be fools to think otherwise. And it's sad that they feel the need to conceal this. I understand why they do so, however.

Can a gay man advance in professional hockey? He can if he works for the Toronto Maple Leafs! Or for Miami University Hockey. God bless Rico Blasi! And I am certain these two organizations are not alone here.

I wish this burden would fall on someone else's shoulders, not Brendan's. Pioneers are often misunderstood and mistrusted. But since he wishes to blaze this trail, I stand beside him with an axe! I simply could not be more proud of Brendan than I am, and I love him as much as I admire him." -- Brian Burke

Here's a quote from the coach at Miami-Ohio:

"Brendan is a great guy, personable and caring. As student manager, he is involved in a lot of things for us -- video, stats and community service, to name a few of his duties.

To my knowledge, there has been nothing negative [since he came out to us]. I think it goes along the lines that Brendan is part of our family. Everyone respects Brendan, and that's all that really matters.

The players are awesome. They are very sensitive to language and how we talk in the locker room. Again, it goes back to our culture and working on relationships and behaviors.

[As far as whether a player could come out and be able to function like a normal college player], that's a tough one and I don't want to speak for any other program. As far as Miami is concerned, we are about the person. I believe we would be accepting and honestly not even think twice about it.

I think having Brendan as part of our program has been a blessing. We are much more aware of what you say and how we say it. I am guilty as anyone. We need to be reminded that respect is not a label, but something you earn by the way you live your life." -- Miami University hockey coach Enrico Blasi

While I do think that these two men are not the norm in hockey or major sports in general, their public stances will certainly help raise the bar at least a little bit.

Enjoy the story at

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