“Thank god it’s nothing serious.”
Brendan Burke (1988-2010)
Can you imagine having to pull every person you have met in college aside to tell them a secret? A secret you’ve been working to hide for years and years?
Brendan Burke’s coming out made such a difference in the lives he touched and the ripples seeem to go on and on.
It’s funny I vaguely remember a fleeting mention that the Stanley Cup was in Chicago’s gay pride parade last summer. I recall thinking that was a great move and I was glad it happened, but not being much of a sports fan I didn’t follow the story back to see how it happened to be there.
As it turns out… were it not for Brendan Burke’s courage to come out to his family and college community, the Stanley Cup would have never been carried in Chicago’s gay pride parade.
Brent Sopel, who was traded from Chicago to Atlanta just four days earlier, volunteered to represent the Blackhawks in the parade. Brent had a distinct reason for accepting the invitation. “Brian Burke was my GM for five years (while Sopel was playing for the Vancouver Canucks).” During that time, Sopel got to know Burke’s youngest son, Brendan, who publicly acknowledged that he was gay, putting himself at risk of ridicule in hockey circles. But Brendan’s sexuality was embraced by the hockey community, including the college hockey team with whom he worked. Brent decided to participate in the Pride Parade to honour Brendan. “When Brendan came out, Brian (Burke) stood by him, and his whole family stood by him, like every family should,” he commented. “We teach our kids about accepting everybody. That’s part of the reason I’m doing it. My wife and I have three children. We feel that everybody is equal.” (you can read the rest here)
There is little doubt as to the personal impact Burke had on the people in his life and the symbolic impact this little moment of gay pride and support from the champions of the National Hockey League had on the larger community.
It’s a lot to ask of a young person. Go to school, become a man, find your place in the world, and do it all with the fear of homophobic rejection hanging over your head. Burke seems to have blown past that fear and with the support of his family and friends – made the world a little better for tomorrow.
“There are gay hockey players, there are gay football players, it doesn’t really matter. It’s who you are. Brendan was put on this earth to open some eyes. And hopefully we can continue to push his message forward.” -Enrico Blasi, Miami University Head Coach