Burkes let gay hockey players and athletes know You Can Play

The words are simple. But they're far from superficial. And most of all, they're what real athletes are all about.

Any gay man or woman who has grown up in the closet knows how it feels to be left out of the game, both literally and figuratively. Or to have to hide, suffocate, or even loathe certain parts of yourself in order to participate.

And one area that homophobia has particularly been prevalent in—and unaddressed by—is the world of sport.

But change is underway.

Patrick Burke, a Philadelphia Flyers scout and son of Toronto Maple Leafs manager Brian Burke (and former general manager of the Vancouver Canucks), decided to do something about it. He launched the You Can Play project.

The project was inspired by his late brother, Brendan, who was born in Vancouver and came out publicly in November 2009 while he was the student manager of Miami (Ohio) University's men's hockey team. Sadly, the 21-year-old Brendan died in a car crash in February 2010.

The project, founded with Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman (a member of the GForce gay hockey team), creates an alliance between gay and straight athletes to help eliminate homophobia in sports venues. Anyone can sign up and participate in the project to show their support (visit the You Can Play website).

Here's the first public-service announcement called "The Faceoff", which aired on NBC during the March 4 game between the Bruins and the Rangers. (Other videos will eventually air as well.)

The Burkes extended the invitation to all 30 NHL teams to participate. Some of hockey's top players make appearances, including:

  • Rick Nash (Columbus)
  • Duncan Keith (Chicago)
  • Brian Boyle (Rangers)
  • Matt Moulson (Islanders)
  • Joffrey Lupul (Toronto)
  • Claude Giroux (Philadelphia)
  • Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa)
  • Scott Hartnell (Philadelphia)
  • Corey Perry (Anaheim)
  • Andy Greene (New Jersey)
  • Dion Phaneuf (Toronto)
  • Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers)

In the video, Patrick talks about how his brother Brendan fought for gay rights in sports.

Vancouver made a historical contribution to the movement to address homophobia in sport when the local queer community banded together to launch the first-ever Pride Houses (one in Vancouver at Qmunity, and one in Whistler), LGBT social resource pavilions, at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

AthletesCAN, Coaches of Canada, True Sport Foundation, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS), the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, Sport Officials Canada, and Egale Canada joined together to launch the Step Up! Speak Out! Ally Campaign for Inclusive Sport on the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17, 2011.

In the Canadian-American hockey movie Goon (currently out in theatres and the number one domestic film in Canada), the lead character Doug (Seann William Scott), who becomes a hockey player, has a brother named Ira (played by Vancouver actor David Paetkau) who is openly gay.

And if you're looking to play on a gay hockey team here in Vancouver, we do have one. The Cutting Edges hockey club formed in 1994 and became a registered society in 1998.

 

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.

Comments (2) Add New Comment
DavidH
How often did Brian Burke speak out in favour of gay rights in professional sports BEFORE his son died?

Bearing in mind that his son came out in November and died in February.

Just wondering.
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James G
If there is something we want to occur in people it is growth, acceptance and a willingness to have the courage to speak out. The tragic aspect of Mr. Burke losing his son should enkindle only empathy. We should never be so insensitive as to mark such a horrific loss as a mere harbinger of change and might instead want to help create a world where people are brought together, like the "You Can Play" project is doing.
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