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If You Can Play…

When Brendan Burke, son of Toronto GM Brian Burke, was tragically killed in a car accident 2 years ago, it ignited a debate about homosexuals in hockey and sports and general. This debate raged everywhere from the mainstream media down to the blogs like this one. Whenever there was a post alluding to Brendan Burke or openly gay pro players, it seemed to always result in heated rhetoric on both sides. Despite being an extremely contentious issue, while still only in college, Brendan himself came out as openly gay and began to fight very publicly for acceptance of gay players within the game.

We can only imagine how tough that must have been for Brendan, especially being the son of the guy who basically epitomizes the hockey man’s man. Brian Burke isn’t known for being “tolerant” or “open minded”. He isn’t a “softy” and he definitely seems to respect TOUGH players beyond all others. It was somewhat surprising to see that Brian was so understanding and not only accepted his son for who he was, but proactively attended gay-rights rallies with him in Toronto. Brian Burke the tough guy WAS in fact a tolerant, open minded man who’s views admittedly shifted when the issue touched so close to home. It’s a lot easier to understand when it’s someone you’ve always loved and always will love. It’s much easier to hate, scorn, and fear the constructs of people you’ll never meet or know.

What should have been an uplifting tale that ended in decades of activism by the father and son team ended in tragedy in February of 2010 when Brendan was killed on an icy Indiana road . Most of us can’t even imagine how devastating the loss of his son must have been for Brian. Whatever your views on homosexuality, you’d have to be a monster to not feel for the Burke family.

As someone who has always been a huge believer in civil rights and equality for all no matter race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, it made me smile and nearly brought a tear to my eye to see that the man’s man himself Brian Burke (...a man that the Red Wings fan in me detested beyond belief during those epic Anaheim playoff series) and his other son Patrick are continuing to fight the good fight and doing it in a way that’s accessible to all… if you can play, then PLAY.

Many props to all of the players who participated in the below video. It’s great to see hockey leading the charge on the issue of tolerance. As much as Brendan Burke was an inspiration through his courage, the fact that his prototypical, old-school hockey dad is publicly fighting for gay rights sends a signal to old-school hockey guys everywhere. It’s Brian Burke who’s actually trying to break the strongest barriers down and for that, he has earned this hockey fan’s respect.

Filed in: Hockey Related Stories, | KK Members Blog | Permalink
 

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