Earlier today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced what may be the first effort of its kind to support LGBT players. The NHL and NHLPA have partnered with the You Can Play Project, an organization dedicated to fighting homophobia in the sports world, to lend support to LGBT NHL players.
The You Can Play Project was founded by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke in March 2012 in memory of Brendan Burke, Patrick’s younger brother and the son of former NHL GM Brian Burke.Burke appeared with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to announce the rollout of the partnership earlier today. Watch it here:
Brendan Burke, who had revealed his homosexuality to his family in 2007, died in a car accident in 2010 while working as a student manager and video assistant for the men’s hockey team at Miami (Ohio) University.
“The NHL sets the standard for professional sports when it comes to LGBT outreach and we are incredibly grateful for their help and support,” Patrick Burke said in a statement. “We will work with League and NHLPA officials, teams and players to ensure that we create a more inclusive hockey community at all levels.”
You Can Play will conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium and make its resources and personnel available to each individual team as desired.
The NHL and its players will work with You Can Play to integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program to enable players to confidentially seek counselling or simply ask questions regarding matters of sexual orientation.
While all four major North American leagues forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation, this is believed to be the first partnership between a league and a gay advocacy organization.
Burke told the NYT that given the league's demographics, this partnership makes perfect sense.
“We have players from around the world, and a lot of those players are from countries that are seen as more progressive on LGBT issues,” Burke said. “So I don’t think it’s unreasonable or strange to think that the N.H.L. and the N.H.L.P.A. are driving this, in part because our players tend to be more comfortable with this issue.”For those who don't know, the great majority of NHL players come from Canada, which has long been much more supportive of gay rights than the States. A significant portion of NHL players also come from northern Europe, which is also very gay-friendly.
Burke added that laying the groundwork for an openly gay player was not an official part of the program.
“But we’re ready to do whatever that player wants,” he said. “If he wants to do a thousand interviews and march in pride parades, we’re equipped to handle that. And if he wants us to pass-block for him so he never has to do another interview in his life, we’re equipped to handle that, too.”
To find out more about You Can Play, check out their Website.