Brian Burke's son Brendan announced he was a homosexual this week and it's been the talk of the hockey world. A powerful and courageous statement, absolutely. But it's also a sad state of the game of hockey that in 2009, this is still a big deal.
Last November, Barack Obama's campaign to become U.S. President was as compelling a political race as people have seen in an awful long time. It marked the first time a person of colour became President of the United States of America. A major hurdle cleared, but again - why do skin colour and sexual preferences still make headlines in this day and age?
I applaud Brendan Burke for making a loud and proud statement in the hockey world. I remember breaking into this business in the mid 1990s and, at the time, there weren't many women covering the game. I recall players that would stand naked in the dressing room and cough as loud as possible to draw attention to themselves - most likely in hopes to gain a reaction from the ladies in attendance. Talk about immature and talk about unfair. Times have changed substantially, as several women cover the sport regularly, including a few very talented ones at TSN.
I'm sure Brendan will hear comments and I'm sure people will make jokes, but having such a powerful and bombastic father in the hockey world by his side will no doubt help break down barriers and limit the jokes. Consider this…how many others in the hockey world are afraid to come out? Depending on what study you listen to, one in every 10 men are gay, others say one in 20. Going by that rationale, of the near 700 players currently in the NHL, 35-70 players are homosexuals.
My one-year old daughter is growing up in Toronto, which is widely perceived as the most diverse city on the planet. It's home to Little Italy, Greektown, Little Portugal, Chinatown, Little Africa, Little India. There's a Jewish village, and even a Pride district. We live in a democratic society where we are all free to be ourselves. We can choose our religion, our politics, our music, and even our favourite sports teams. Diversity is what makes our country great. And for the Burkes to stand tall this week is a major step forward for all minorities all over.
Having said all that, it also shows us how far we still have to go as a society. I hope, for my little girl's sake, that these announcements won't be making headlines much longer.