Henrik Lundqvist is one of several NHLers to appear in the the 'You Can Play' ads.
The National Hockey League has embraced the fight against homophobia — and it’s about time.
With the death of Brian Burke’s son Brendan and the subsequent ceasing of one of the first advocate for potentially gay professional hockey players, many in the LGBT community wondered if the efforts would continue.
Well, they have. Not only has Brian Burke continued the advocacy, but his other son Patrick has put his efforts into raising awareness about gay athletes. After his brother’s death, Patrick hit the road with Glen Whitman, the founding member of GForce, a Denver based hockey organization that has morphed from an all-star, all-gay hockey team to a full-fledged advocacy group. Focusing on college athletes, the group presented panels at the University of Denver, Boston College and the University of Toronto. Now, he’s created a new non-profit, called the “You Can Play” project. With several NHL players as spokesmen, appearing in video clips, the support for gay athletes appears to be moving full speed ahead.
More and more pressure is being put on professional athletes to be accepting of teammates and opponents of all backgrounds. The LGBT community has traditionally lagged behind in public acceptance, but hopefully with help from current NHL players and the efforts of supporters like Glen and Patrick, things will slowly begin to change. Where it was once commonplace to hear not just the uneducated, homophobic slur, but to hear conscious bigotry against homosexuals, the locker room seemed to take on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality with teammates that were either rumored or suspected to be gay. Now, the doors of understanding are opening and players will soon be faced with accepting teammates who refuse to hide their sexuality.
Take the March 17 episode of Hockey Night in Canada’s ”After Hours” program. Vancouver Canucks forward Chris Higgins was asked by a gay Tweeter for his opinion on the “You Can Play” campaign, and how he would feel if he had an “out” teammate. Kudos to the HNIC staff for allowing the question to be asked, or for literally making Chris Higgins sweat!
Who will be the first NHL player to come out? Probably someone we least expect. After all, being in the NHL to begin with defies all stereotypes. And in my opinion, this is a good thing.