Brian is, as you all know, the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Patrick is his son, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers. Brian's other son, Brendan, was the student Manager of the University of Miami-Ohio hockey team until 2010, when he was tragically killed in a car accident in Indiana. Brendan was also openly gay, and was the closest person to the NHL ever to come out publicly. Brendan came out to his family in 2007, and publicly in 2009, and he and his family were some of the first advocates for gay athletes, particularly in hockey. Brian and Patrick are now making sure that there is change in the culture of hockey and that Brendan's legacy is used for something really important.
The new program is called the You Can Play Project and their mission is to first-and-foremost promote respect for gay athletes and make sure they can be comfortable and without judgement in their own locker rooms. To be judged only for their abilities, work-ethic, and character.
I'll try to articulate as best I can why this makes me so proud to be a hockey fan.
The NHL is leading the way for tolerance and equality of gay athletes. Sean Avery stepped up for marriage equality last year and was the first pro-athlete to do so in New York. He was also very vocal about the use of gay slurs on the ice and was the catalyst for the movement to have them treated with the same discipline as a racial slur, and publicly pledged his support to all hockey players, particularly teenagers, who might want to come out. Say what you want about the guy, but this is HUGE for equality and for the culture change so desperately needed in pro sports.
I'm not here to make any accusations or to stir the pot. Just to raise awareness. It's been said that up to 1 in 10 people might be gay. That's about as many people out of 10 that might be left-handed. Or maybe as many NHL players that are from Sweden or Finland. Statistically speaking, that's at least one per team, or more. Obviously, that's not to say that there's a gay man on every team, just like that just because 60% of the world's population is Asian, not every sample group will show the same ratio. But is it possible that there's a gay player or two in the NHL, or even AHL, CHL or NCAA? That's well over 2000 players, so yea. It's entirely possible if not likely.
No one should have to be afraid to come out to their teammates. A hockey team is like a family. No one should have to be scared. Hopefully, in the future, this won't be an issue. Even if they have a teammate who for political or religious reasons won't support gay marriage or what have you, they should at least feel safe enough to be themselves.
Is this going to be an overnight change? No. Will hockey players still use terms like "fag" and "cocksucker" as some of the worst insults you can hurl? Yea, probably.
But, if anything, this is a start.
PS. I also encourage you to check out Hockey Against Hate and get involved with either organization in any way you can.