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A Frank Discussion About Gay Athletes

from John MacKinnon of the Edmonton Journal at the Vancouver Province,

The Oilers and (Edmonton) Capitals, said Oilers president Patrick LaForge, will conduct in-house diversity training for both the staff and athletes on both its baseball and hockey clubs, also welcome news.

Those who believe any of this makes it more likely that a gay athlete employed anywhere in North American pro sports will feel secure enough to declare his homosexuality while an active player may be in for disappointment. There have been gay players in major league baseball, NFL football and basketball who have gone public, but only after they retired. No male hockey pro has ever come out.

“In a way, I don’t blame them because in the changing room, where everything is wide open, for a lot of players, they just don’t want to [declare], if they’re not comfortable,” said Georges Laraque, retired NHL player and deputy leader of the Green party. “For me, I couldn’t care less.

“But, a lot of times, if you’re a member of a team, you just don’t want to make guys uncomfortable around you. They shouldn’t be, but you know that if others know [about your sexual orientation, the atmosphere) could be colder.”

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Filed in: NHL Teams, Hockey Related Stories, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: georges+laraque

Comments

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I know I should be used to it by now, but I’m always disappointed that whenever this issue comes up, it’s always talked about in a very passive way, such as Laraque’s second quote there. Like that cold atmosphere is something that just happens. And I’m not picking on Georges here, because a) he’s obviously one of the more progressive athletes on issues like this and b) he’s speaking in his second language.

But, I would really like to see a prominent someone just generally call out NHLers (or pro athletes in general) on this and directly tell them that *they* are the problem. That they and their mouth-breathing attitudes are the reason that there are no out gays in pro sports. That clearly there are gays in the NHL but because of the jokes and commentary that obviously happens in every locker room, none of them feel safe enough to come out.

The players are the problem.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/12/10 at 03:36 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

I’ll probably set someone off with this rant….

While I agree with you that it’s disappointing whenever this issue comes up, but for different reasons - these kind of articles, shakedowns, etc. always end up portraying the *gay* person as a victim and the rest of the world as a problem. It’s a lifestyle choice for *them* and to expect everyone else to bend over for them and be sensitive to their needs is preposterous.

And the locker room thing, isn’t it obvious why players would feel uncomfortable knowing there is *a person of different preference* in the room? Why don’t women sports allow male journalists/photographers in their locker room, yet women have fought their way into the men’s locker rooms.

Need to stop here before I get banned.

Posted by TheFreak on 08/12/10 at 06:28 PM ET

Paul's avatar

TheFreak, no ban as long as you express your views in a civilized manner, which you did.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 08/12/10 at 06:30 PM ET

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@TheFreak: How is it a lifestyle choice for them? Do you think one day, at 13, someone just *decides* to be gay? Do you think you could just *decide* to be gay if you wanted to? If you don’t think you could, what makes you think anyone else could?

If someone is gay - for whatever reason - they deserve to have the opportunity to be just as upfront about it as Mike Fisher and Mike Comrie are about *not* being gay. Anything less is discriminatory.

As it is right now, no NHLer who is gay (and if you don’t think any of them are, you’re kidding yourself) feels safe enough to be in public with someone he’s dating. That’s sad and it reflects poorly on all the other players in the league who keep it (by explicit means or implicit means) from happening.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/12/10 at 06:35 PM ET

perfection's avatar

(ignorant homophhobia is civilized, huh??) 

and I agree with you 1000% dzuunmod. calling homosexuality a “lifestyle choice” may be one of the most closed minded, naive, bigoted, and downright stupid things I’ve read on this site. not that I think anyone should be banned, I actually feel sorry for people who think like that and hope being a part of this discussion could open their eyes to reality a bit. 

but whenever there is an article posted here or elsewhere about homosexuality in hockey, it’s quite amazing how telling some of the posts are. these threads really become analogies for why there is such a stigma in the first place.

let me be clear with you TheFreak, I understand completely why a heterosexual male might be uncomfortable showering with gay males, as you say, you could substitute it for a woman and it is an apt analogy. but how to deal with comfort and logistical issues is something that can’t even be discussed until the utterly absurd prejudices are rid of forever. calling homosexuality a “lifestyle choice” makes the rest of your opinions moot as far as I’m concerned. it’s not even possible to discuss this maturely when you cling to that fearful, unscientific, and downright hateful rhetoric.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 08/12/10 at 07:21 PM ET

UMFan's avatar

In 2010, might there be an athlete out there who could become the NHL’s first openly gay player, a gay Jackie Robinson?

“You can’t compare those situations; they’re totally different,” Laraque said. “When Jackie Robinson played, not everyone on his team was racist. A lot of people admired what he did.

Robinson was also a damn good ball player. People sometimes forget how good he actually was. That I think had something to do with his admiration factor amongst his peers. If he had been ordinary, he’d be a footnote in history and somebody else would have gotten credit for changing the game. And I think this is the unfortunate part. To knock down these types of walls, you need to be great. All it takes it a gay player with skills like Crosby or Lebron or Pujols and I think this kind of sillyness begins to end. And personally, I hope I get to see it. Sillyness like this needs to end.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 08/12/10 at 07:58 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Well then let’s discuss those issues.  I’m a straight man who believes homosexuality is either genetic or controlled by something other than the simple choice of the person, that it feels as natural for a homosexual male to be attracted to men as it does for a heterosexual male to be attracted to women and I still have trouble working my mind around the comfort and logistical issues.

While I understand that telling gay-bashing jokes in front of homosexuals is not a defensible behavior, I can’t say that a person who is uncomfortable in a dressing room around a male who may or may not find him attractive is in a position where he should be expected to “just get over it”, if that’s the case. 

It’s a tough issue, to be sure.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/12/10 at 08:00 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Why does any of this matter as long as the guy is a good teammate, works hard, and contributes to the team?

That sentence could be swapped around and aimed at heterosexual teammates as well.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 08/12/10 at 08:06 PM ET

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@JJ: Personally, and given the palatial nature of most NHL dressing rooms these days, I don’t understand why the players can’t just do their changing and showering in stalls!

I can’t say that a person who is uncomfortable in a dressing room around a male who may or may not find him attractive is in a position where he should be expected to “just get over it”, if that’s the case.

See, to me, the issue already exists, it’s just swept under the rug. Only the most deluded guys in the league would probably argue that there are no gays in the NHL, which means that there are right now today, guys who are potentially sneaking glances in the shower or whatever.

I guess it’s just a case of what you don’t know can’t hurt you?

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/12/10 at 08:09 PM ET

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Does anyone really care about this?  This is personal business, why does it have to be advertised?  Who knows what people are thinking.  I don’t think people care one way or the other but I don’t think they want it in their faces either.  I really don’t care who marries who, just stop obsessing about this.

Posted by 13 user names on 08/12/10 at 08:36 PM ET

perfection's avatar

i think people would stop obsessing if everyone else was as tolerant as you. fact is, most aren’t… hence the whole discussion in the first place.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 08/12/10 at 08:39 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

Another rant:

@perfection

You appear to be the one spewing and clinging to hateful rhetoric - look at what you just wrote. You don’t know me, yet go off on your tangent. I’m a straight guy, why aren’t you sensitive to me instead of repeating the same drivel every gay activist throws out there. Why can’t you/they have some respect and keep this out and away from my kids, instead of flaunting in their face. Some families like to live by some morals too, and dare I say “biblical” without offending you or them? Have some respect for that.

I don’t care if you or someone is gay, by all means be as gay as you can be. I don’t know the scientifics of why people are gay, nor do I care to. Just don’t expect me to be extra sensitive to you - it ain’t happening.  At 13 your confused, at 21 you’re an adult and can make decisions how to live your lifestyle.

Here’s a true story:
My old boss divorced her husband. After a couple years of dating men, decided to give in to a co-worker who’d been in love with her since she was married and moved in together. Long story short, my boss had gotten fired for theft, clear cut case of it. She sued on grounds of discrimination claiming she was gay. Guess what?  She won, the evil company lost a good chunk of change and a few good employees as a result. That’s the crap I’m talking about.

And people think NHL/Bettman & lawyers against Kovulchuk are bad.

Am I banned yet Paul?

Posted by TheFreak on 08/12/10 at 11:07 PM ET

UMFan's avatar

TheFreak:

As long as you don’t teach hatred to your friends and expecially you children, your opinion should be respected. I happen to think you are wrong but I aslo think that its fine that you disagree with other people’s lifestyle. Disagreement is healthy. Its when you introduce blind, absolute hatred to the equation, thats when you cross the line and wreck human evolution. IMHO, the only difference between the hatred of homosexuals and the hatred of the Jews is that the Nazis figured a way to convince the populace that the extermination of the Jews was acceptable. I fully believe that if some people had their way, gay people would be treated exactly the way the Jewish people were treated. Do yourself a favor, watch a documentary about the Jewish concentration camps and everytime they say Jew, substitute the word gay. Maybe your perspecive will change a bit. Hatred is hatred, no matter the form it takes.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 08/12/10 at 11:49 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

@UMFan

What part of “I don’t care if you or someone is gay” did you not understand? Don’t try to put this “hate speech” stuff on me - seems to be coming from yourselves.

Hatred is hatred eh? How do you like them Spartans then? Or the other sports fan rooting against your team. Where do you draw the line? Do you teach your kids to hate the Spartans? Have your kids learned to “love they neighbor”?

Posted by TheFreak on 08/13/10 at 12:16 AM ET

UMFan's avatar

My appoligies if I offended and/or missunderstood your position. This subject kinda of pisses me off. Even as a white male, I’ve seen discrimanation on a couple of fronts and it upsets me to no end. Again, I sincerly apologise. For the record, my father and mother are MSU alum. I tease him every year that MSU football loses. And I don’t have kids. Even if I did, even if they were Notre Dame fans, I wouldn’t disown them. I’d question their sanity, but wouldn’t disown them.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 08/13/10 at 01:25 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I guess it’s just a case of what you don’t know can’t hurt you?

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/12/10 at 06:09 PM ET

I’d say that’s pretty close to it.  I’m sure most of the guys who would be uncomfortable with the thought are better off just not knowing it.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/13/10 at 01:43 AM ET

TheFreak's avatar

@UMFan

No big deal. I expected some outrage from my first post.

As mentioned above, the lawsuit from involving my former boss got very ugly for the company. It was a solid, well run long time family owned business. The boss was using company money to buy the same sex co-worker she hooked up with gifts, bonuses, weekend get-aways together, etc. The “gay discrimination” lawsuit tore the company apart, tore the family apart, turned co-worker against co-worker and tied up so much money in litigation the company had to downsize, which i was one of the lucky recipients. The former boss was using being “gay” as cover to saver her *ss. You can see how this “gay” rhetoric can get out of hand and be destructive, affecting many people lives.

Again I can go on but I’m sure other people are thinking “let’s get back to hockey”.

Posted by TheFreak on 08/13/10 at 01:59 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I say next we have a gay discussion about frank athletes.

Jeremy Roenick has good bone structure, no?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/13/10 at 02:14 AM ET

perfection's avatar

TheFreak - for your children’s benefit, I sincerely hope none of them are homosexuals.
My guess is your “I don’t care…” line will immediately be substituted by utter intolerance, which IS hate. 

The parable of your boss is totally irrelevant to your backwards view that people CHOOSE to be homosexual. There are homosexual animals in nature too, do they also choose?  Maybe you should trade in your bible for rationality and stop living in fear of things you don’t understand.

As a straight male who’s lived amongst several gay people in my community I can testify that no one forces themselves or their “gayness” upon you or your children. You have nothing to be scared about. Your children on the other hand clearly do…

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 08/13/10 at 03:15 PM ET

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Why can’t you/they have some respect and keep this out and away from my kids, instead of flaunting in their face. Some families like to live by some morals too, and dare I say “biblical” without offending you or them?

How, exactly, are gays throwing it in your face anymore than heterosexuals throw it in everyone’s faces every single day?

For every example you can give of a gay person “flaunting it in your face”, I guarantee you I can find straight people doing the same thing 100 times over. You are confusing “living openly without fear of discrimination and violence” with “flaunting it”.

When a straight couple makes out in a public place, TheFreak, are they “flaunting” their heterosexuality? When Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood have a very public relationship, are they flaunting theirs?

Yes or no answers to those questions will suffice.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/13/10 at 03:21 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

@perfection

Talk about being close minded. For you to jump to those assumptions and twist into your hate rhetoric is idiotic. When you attempt to stereotype like that only shows what you are - a bigot. Don’t be so quick to suggest someone give up their bible and moral principals for your selfish views.

I have no fear of gays, again another cliche thrown out there to see what sticks. What I am beginning to fear are people like you, going out of your way attacking people for their beliefs that you don’t agree with. I’ll say it again, “Be gay, I don’t care”. I’ll bank at the bank if it’s owned by a gay, I still shop at stores if they hire gays. I don’t care.” Is that clear enough for you?

The story of my ex boss is very relevant to how someone chose their *lifestyle* and destructive it became when they played the “gay” card. While I didn’t say people choose to be a gay (although in the above example of my ex boss, illustrates how they can), they choose their lifestyle - a way of life, how they live their life, being in the closet or out, morals or lack there of, that they adhere to. Get the point?

And here’s the tweak:
If your so comfortable with gays, would it be right for you to suggest to your own kids that they should look at the same sex for love & companionship? Maybe to you it is, but my belief system it isn’t.

@dsuunmod
Ask Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood that same question, since they have a very public relationship, i’m sure you can just go right up to them and ask, or find that photographer hiding in the bushes from across the street and ask him. Being that Mike Fisher is a devout Christian, i’d also be curious to know his answers.

Posted by TheFreak on 08/13/10 at 04:54 PM ET

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TheFreak: You’re missing my point. I’m asking *you*.

Two situations: Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood - the way they conduct themselves and their relationship. Do you think they are “flaunting it”?

And if two gay men conducted themselves and their relationship in the exact same way, would you consider that “flaunting it”?

It’s a simple question.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/13/10 at 04:57 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

@dz

Fine, i’ll bite…

It’s a flawed question on several fronts, but for starters: One, comparing a celebrity couple to a non celebrity couple because celebrity’s more often than not, behave differently when in public. Two, not defining what behavior is being done.

Now if your comparing a guy/girl and girl/girl (or guy/guy) couples, then again it depends on what behavior is being exhibited. For my young kids, i don’t care who it is, they don’t need to watch a couple making out and groping each other. Now here’s what your not going to like and want me to say, because of my morals and belief system: No, I don’t want my kids seeing same sex couples kissing, fondling, etc.

And this has happened many times around my family with both hetro/homo couples. And you know what? We walk away if we can. If not, I try to distract my kids so they don’t see. And I don’t go over to the same sex couple and start attacking them for their beliefs. I let it go. See I am tolerant.

Let me ask you a question:
What do you tell your 5 year old daughter when she asks “why are those girls kissing each other?”

Posted by TheFreak on 08/13/10 at 05:36 PM ET

Avatar

I was making the assumption that we were talking about two couples where everything is basically equal, other than the orientation. Two celebrity couples, or two non-celebrity couples. But whatever.

To answer your question, I’d tell my child that usually, boys like to be with girls, and girls like to be with boys, but some boys like to be with other boys, and some girls like to be with other girls.

Easy-peasy.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/13/10 at 05:43 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

TheFreak,

Seems your ex-boss has a bad case of “being a bad person”.  Unfortunately, this affliction seems to know no sexual preference.  I agree that it’s unfortunate that she utilized a flaw in the system to hurt other peoples’ lives and cover up for her own indiscretions, but that really has nothing to do with this entire conversation unless you’re either saying that all gays expect special treatment or that there should not be societal measures in force that allow civil recompense for discriminatory treatment.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/13/10 at 06:15 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

@dz

Easy for your value system, not in ours.


@JJ
This conversation has been pretty wide open, judging from the attacks and reinterpretation of words. Probably because i had a different opinion that became a lightning rod for some peoples misguided anger.

I said neither of what you are suggesting.
The story is relevant because it illustrates a bad case of playing the gay card and getting rewarded. Here’s even more to the story: The company was then forced to educate the rest of the company with sensitivity/diversity training (that’s why it rang a bell with me and should have said that earlier). After all that, the company never really recovered financially and didn’t have the cash on hand to survive the bad economic conditions and went under anyway. That was a learning and eye opening experience for me.

That’s why i said what i said in the beginning, it’s frustrating to see gays as always being the victim when i gave an example of it being otherwise, including a lifestyle choice.

And to go even further, it’s frustrating to see the same case being made time and time again. If it’s in the news, many times it shows the gay is a victim somehow and everyone else has the problem. It’s news and it’s supposed to be sensational so you’ll pay attention, I get that. But it also advances the notion that gays (or even race) are different and need special treatment. The more they make it an issue, the more it becomes the problem.

And for the record, i am NOT a race monger either.

Posted by TheFreak on 08/13/10 at 07:17 PM ET

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The thing is, TheFreak, that there *are* gay people in the world, and they *do* have same-sex relationships. To not explain that to a child is to deny them the reality of this world that we all actually live in right here today.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/13/10 at 07:22 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I’m sorry, but it sounds to me here that you are saying that gays want special treatment.  Please correct me if I’ve misinterpreted.  Is it only because the news makes it seem that way?

Yes, there are instances when people “play the gay card” for personal gain, but there are times when people “play the gay card” because they have actually been a victim of discrimination.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/13/10 at 07:29 PM ET

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I’m with you, JJ: I’d like to know what specific examples TheFreak is talking about. When and where exactly have gays asked for treatment that’s better than what a heterosexual would receive?

All they’ve asked for is to not be treated worse because of their orientation, but TheFreak clearly thinks that is asking too much - that gays deserve to be second-class citizens.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/13/10 at 07:32 PM ET

perfection's avatar

this is beginning to resemble banging one’s head into a cinderblock wall. it’s a completely futile discussion when someone just uses ambiguous “value systems” to conveniently justify irrational and discriminatory viewpoints. fine, I quit.

for everyone else who doesn’t think a productive discussion on this topic is flaunting gayness in the faces of innocent children, i think it’s obvious why some players would be uncomfortable, but we already live in a world with co-ed teams from mite to adult… the NHL included. despite reeking of a publicity stunt, the NHL has already shown that if a woman has the skill, they are welcome to play in the NHL. assuming she is a heterosexual woman, you would run into these same issues… but without rants about “flaunting womanhood” in people’s faces. it would be the same logistical issue as gay men but without the stigma. i think teams would find accommodating solutions real quickly if it were a woman. but we can’t even begin to discuss accommodating gay males because you encounter people like TheFreak at every turn who stop the conversation before it even starts.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 08/13/10 at 08:18 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

TheFreak clearly thinks that is asking too much - that gays deserve to be second-class citizens.

I’d like to separate our assumed agreement at this comment.  I’m not accusing TheFreak of doing this, merely trying to understand how an example of one person being a bad person is pertinent, unless it is the expectation of the entire group to act in such a way.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/13/10 at 08:48 PM ET

Lindas1st's avatar

“Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me” .

John Lennon

Posted by Lindas1st from New England on 08/13/10 at 09:09 PM ET

TheFreak's avatar

@dz
What is it with you putting words in my mouth? You are a perfect example of how to exacerbate the problem with your kind of rhetoric. Know what? There’s porn in this world too, and scores of other things that I believe aren’t right for telling a 5 year old girl.

@perfection
And there’s problem for you. My beliefs, value system, morals, standards to live by, which some of you find hard to believe one could actually use a religious reference to guide them through life, much like you would use a textbook in school to study, learn and formulate your own road map to live by. It might be a surprise to hear that I’m not the only one to do this.

You can’t handle our beliefs, yet where’s the tolerance for us? Hypocrite.

Posted by TheFreak on 08/13/10 at 11:37 PM ET

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So then, no specific examples. Got it.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/14/10 at 07:56 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

How do we know a gay player it’s not already playing? Maybe the player was drafted, told the team owner, the team owner explained it to everyone on the franchise and they’re all just quiet. (it’s a looong stretch, but you know what I mean)

Does it really have to be public? I don’t remember a public annoucement by Sidney Crosby stating he’s an heterossexual when he first joined the League, why should a homossexual do it?

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 08/14/10 at 08:08 PM ET

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@Guilherme: Because if a player is straight, he gets to live the life he wants to, date who he wants and be who he is in public without any kind of scandal. If Sidney Crosby starts dating someone and taking her to team events like any other person in a relationship, no one is going to make a big deal about it.

But if a gay person wants to live the exact same life as a heterosexual - to have a partner and not have to hide it - he needs to make his orientation public. If a gay celebrity (in as much as hockey players are celebrities) wants to have a relationship without some big controversy or scandal, he needs to go to great lengths to make sure that no one who will recognize him ever sees him with his partner. That’s something a straight player just doesn’t have to deal with.

To say that they’re anywhere near the same situation is incredibly naive.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/14/10 at 08:12 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/14/10 at 06:12 PM ET

I see your point and agree with you. And what I said was really dumb, I know.

But it’s unrealistic to think a “coming out” will happen anytime soon, the fact we’re having this discussion is another exhibit of it. Society is not ready for this. I admit that, while I’d love to say I dont have any prejudice, I’d be very uncomfortable if a friend of mine told me he’s gay.

The first sign we’re getting ready for those things will be when we stop talking about it. The basic principle of those articles, be it pro or con gay athletes, is that they’re are different.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 08/14/10 at 08:25 PM ET

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But it’s unrealistic to think a “coming out” will happen anytime soon, the fact we’re having this discussion is another exhibit of it. Society is not ready for this.

See, this is where we disagree. Society *is* ready for it. Society has *accepted* it in every other domain. Entertainers, university professors, mayors, members of the House of Representatives in the US and Parliament in Canada - there are out gay people in all of these areas, and their colleagues (and voters and fans) deal with it. Society outside of sports is past being ready for it: it has dealt with it. Sports is just way behind the rest of society, and athletes deserve to be called out on this.

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/14/10 at 08:31 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/14/10 at 06:31 PM ET

Then maybe that’s the first time I’m really an outsider in this blog. We’re in different cultures, so I don’t know exactly what’s going on up there. In here homossexuality is no where visible when it comes to politics, celebrities and stuff.

Let’s just afree to disagree, this time.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 08/14/10 at 08:36 PM ET

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Fair enough! I didn’t even notice where you were from, and I can definitely understand why you would have a different perspective on this. My mother lived in Sao Paolo for two years, so I have some understanding of what you’re saying. smile

Posted by dzuunmod on 08/14/10 at 08:39 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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