Today, we hear of sport communities as “ready” or “not ready” for openly gay players. However, very few stories have passed our eyes with sentiments like that of the partnership between the NHL and You Can Play. A recent ESPN article expertly conveyed how frustration, eagerness, and enthusiasm have been felt by the NHL that worked tirelessly to create a safe environment for a player to come out. In the article, Patrick Burke, co-founder of You Can Play, an LGBT initiative promoting respect in sports, goes on to say: “If you’re a NHL player who happens to be in love with men off the ice, nobody in our community cares, we just want you to be happy.”
With news concerning coming outs in the NFL and competitive skiing, we hear about the fear of coming out within the organization. On the other hand, when covering the NHL we really get a sense that the organization has properly prepared itself, coaches, and players to embrace an openly gay individual.
The coaches, board members, players, team staff, have all inquired to Burke as to why certain players have not come out yet, with the sole question revolving around ‘are they happy?’ Burke also says, “It’s tough for us as an organization where we want to stand up and scream and say, ‘The NHL is ready for a gay player. Because 1,000 percent in my heart I believe that. I know that the first player who comes out is going to have a positive coming-out experience. Yet on the other hand, we know how difficult it is for anybody in the public eye to talk about their sexuality in public. Forget sports for a second, you go to politics or Hollywood, any type of celebrity, it is still an issue.”
Keep reading after the jump…
Through Burke’s “You Can Play” initiative and partnership with NHL, they hoped to promote a safe environment even in the tough hockey arena by providing outlets for players to talk about issues or find assistance. The goal is for the players, coaches, anyone in the hockey business to feel they can be who they truly are, be proud of themselves, and continue playing the game they love so much.
You Can Play became an NHL partner in 2013 and since then no gay players have openly come out. Burke says: “I don’t want to say it’s disappointing because everyone is on their own timeline and when the first guy is ready he’s going to do it.”
Dion Phaneuf, the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs says, “No issue at all, no issue at all. It would be welcomed and accepted with open arms in our rooms. That’s how I feel, I would accept it.” Many people share this opinion and hope for the day that their teammates and colleges can come out and simply be themselves.