The Chicago Tribune's Chris Hine spoke with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the You Can Play Project's Patrick Burke about the inevitable moment that the NHL welcomes an openly gay player to the fold:
The NHL is preparing. It backed up its words of encouragement with action in that direction in April when it suspended former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw for a playoff game after Shaw was caught on camera directing a homophobic slur at an official. Bettman said he was hoping to send a message to the rest of the league that his office would not tolerate the use of that word.
"You want to eliminate the use of the word, but the fact is, what you do in response to set the right tone in terms of what's acceptable is more important than the word itself," Bettman said. "So making clear, in a strong, clear prompt way that this is not acceptable I hope transcends the use of the word itself. I mean, the word is symbolic and the suspension was symbolic, but what I'm hoping the suspension relayed to people was that type of belief, that kind of culture is not acceptable in the NHL."
Bettman said he has not heard from any closeted players in the league, but Burke said the You Can Play Project has heard from some. As for the theories about why no former or current players are out, one holds water with Burke.
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