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The Red Wings lost to the Los Angeles Kings in a tough 3-4 game, having blown a 3 goal lead, only to lose.  I’m disappointed in them, and I’m sure a lot of the other blogs will take them to task for their performance.

But I’m not going to.

I want to take a moment and just remind everyone, including myself, that it’s just a game.  There are more important things in life, a sentiment that has been punctuated, deeply, by the loss of Brendan Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs and Team USA’s GM, Brian Burke.  Brendan was killed in a car accident on Friday night in Indiana.  It’s a turn of events so unfair that it hurts.

I normally wouldn’t post this type of thing, but similar to Michael at The Production Line, it’s something that can’t be left unmentioned.

Brendan Burke was the subject of an incredible profile written by John Buccigross of ESPN earlier this year.  In it, he told the incredibly courageous story of Brendan deciding to come out as a gay man to his father, the human embodiment of the word ‘truculence’, and to the University of Miami Ohio hockey team and Rico Blasi, for whom he was a student manager.

Brendan’s story struck a deep chord.  Sports are not kind to gay players, particularly not male team sports, hockey highest among them.  Gay slurs are common vernacular these days, supposedly use innocuously as jokes.  There are still people in this world who believe that gay men and women don’t deserve the same rights of marriage, to have or adopt children, or even to exist, as heterosexual people.

I cannot tolerate prejudice against people for characteristics that are unchangeable, and intrinsic to them as a person.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, whatever.  It all just makes me ill.  But the incredibly sad thing is that while we, the American public, have made strides in the last several decades against racism and sexism, there’s almost no movement in terms of gay rights.  There are no current major out sports stars, particularly a player in a team sport.  And you can’t say that doesn’t make a difference, when there are locker rooms and constant physical contact in the context of the game.

Brendan may not have been a star NHL player, but the fact that he chose to stand up and decide to be himself, regardless of the reaction, is extremely inspiring.  And Brian Burke’s reaction was equally impressive, making my impression of the man absolutely skyrocket.  I hope Brendan’s story opened the eyes of the hockey world.  For myself, and several of those I know who also read it, we felt all the closer to Brendan for sharing his struggles.  I believe he could have been a pioneer in the hockey world; that he could have made waves for acceptance and tolerance for gays in the same way his father likes to make a splash in the player market.  That he died so soon was absolutely heartbreaking to me.  Who knows when the next person who is strong enough to come out and be openly gay will come along.  Maybe 5 years, 10, 20?

And, though tragic beyond words, I hope that something good can come of his death, and that people can see what’s more important in life, and that’s acceptance.  For your children and family, your friends, coworkers, classmates, people you pass crossing the street or sit next to on the subway.  I hope it inspires people to be true to themselves and stop hiding in the closet, or behind facades, and for others to be tolerant.  And I hope that gay athletes and hockey players in the NHL can see the courage that a 21 year old kid had, and be strong enough to one day soon come out.

And it’s a reminder that hockey is just a game.  We may tear ourselves up over how our team is playing, feel like the world has ended when we lose in the playoffs, bemoan our place in the standings, but it’s all quickly put into perspective when something like this happens.

Posted by EM   @   7 February 2010 1 comments


Feb 7, 2010
3:21 am

I agree and his friend who passed too was only 18. Too soon to die that is for sure. I feel for Brian and I commend him for standing up and walking alongside his son. It takes courage to make change and to stand up for what you believe in and it is sad when we never will find out what he could have accomplished for pro athletes everywhere.

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