Brian and Brendan Burke Busting Homophobia in Pro Hockey


Here's a great piece at ESPN about Toronto Maple Leafs and U.S. Olympic Team General Manager Brian Burke, and his son Brendan's coming out:

"Your dad thinks through everything. Dad is big, confident and
continuously radiates a persona that is rough, gruff, unrelenting and
unapologetic. He has a cold, expressionless poker face straight out of
a Clint Eastwood movie. Yet, he does this all with the most subtle of
Irish smirks that says there is more behind this thick skin. And there
is. He calls you "Moose" because you have always been a big kid. He
cares very deeply about you and your happiness. You say he has always
been there when you needed him. And he has a great sense of humor.
Imagine that. But on this night in 2007, you are petrified of your dad. Because
you, Brendan Burke, at 19 years old, are about to tell your dad, Mr.
Testosterone, that you are gay."

BrendanbrianBrendan, a player himself,  now works for the staff of the No.1-ranked hockey team at Miami University.

Here's a statement from Brian, from the article:

"I had a million good reasons to love and admire Brendan. This news didn't alter any of them.

I would prefer Brendan hadn't decided to discuss this issue in this very public manner. There will be a great deal of reaction, and I fear a large portion will be negative. But this takes guts, and I admire Brendan greatly, and happily march arm in arm with him on this.

There are gay men in professional hockey. We would be fools to think otherwise. And it's sad that they feel the need to conceal this. I understand why they do so, however.

Can a gay man advance in professional hockey? He can if he works for the Toronto Maple Leafs! Or for Miami University Hockey. God bless Rico Blasi! And I am certain these two organizations are not alone here.

I wish this burden would fall on someone else's shoulders, not Brendan's. Pioneers are often misunderstood and mistrusted. But since he wishes to blaze this trail, I stand beside him with an axe! I simply could not be more proud of Brendan than I am, and I love him as much as I admire him." — Brian Burke


  1. Ted says

    Well I cried for the first time since seeing Milk. What a wonderful story, I am thankful for reading it today. I wonder if Brendan would consider playing again, since it sounds like he gave it up for reasons that may no longer be an obstacle he cannot overcome.

  2. J. Bocca says

    Um I like the story, but it feels incomplete….I mean I feel like I’m missing the part where the son came out and how it was done stuff like that. But Cool to see a dad stand by his gay sons side.

  3. says

    What an awesome and honest statement from Brian Burke.

    It’s great that he’s so supportive of his son and yet willing to acknowledge the fears he has about the consequences his son could face for his very public statement.

    I know a lot of parents share the fear of violent or hurtful reprisal when their teens come out (including my own) and it’s important that those fears be acknowledged. Parents and allies shouldn’t be afraid to admit their fears about their out kids safety and well being.

    I think a lot of parental rejection and refusal to accept out LGBT youth has to do with that same fear. Parents are innately protective and if they all felt as comfortable talking about their fears as Burke, we might have far fewer homeless queer youth.

    Just my two cents.

  4. Zeke says

    An amazing display of the mixed emotions, struggles and dueling priorities that come with being a loving, supportive, protective father.

    He wants SO much for SOMEONE to bravely and selflessly stand up for fairness and justice in sport, weathering the hate and ignorance surely to come that brave person’s way; he just wishes that it wasn’t HIS son.

    WOW! As a father I SO understand this torturous dilema. All you can do is be proud, supportive and protective and hope against hope that your son knows what he’s getting himself into and is strong enough to endure it. NO parent wants to see his/her child hated or hurt.

    AMAZING son! AMAZING dad!

    Blessings to you both!

  5. Rann says

    To J. Bocca, the link at the top of this posting takes you to the full story from ESPN and will answer your questions. Great article although I don’t care for the write choosing to tell the story in the second person way. But what great content!

  6. patrick nyc says

    ANDY thanks for this great story, I immediately sent it to my family. I came out to them in ’83, the younger 2 brothers were fine, the older 2, my sister and parents were not. It took us a few years but they are all cool now. With my 23 nephews and nieces it’s a non-issue.

    If anyone is interested here are both the author @ espn and Bill Burke’s email addresses, I sent them both a thank you.

    Biil Burke’s –

  7. Michael @ says

    I propose that the father’s comment

    “I stand beside him with an axe!”

    be used as a PFLAG t-shirt and, more importantly, one of the slogans for the next marriage equality campaign.

    Yes, yes, yes. I genuinely applaud and praise every parent of gays who have appeared in print and TV ads. It’s not their fault that the campaign “strategists” from CA to Maine have still not gotten that expressions of love and, goodness gracious, UNFAIRNESS alone in gay and gay ally family commercials mean nothing to the moveable middle terrorized by the ruthless JudeoXristo fascists’ commercials into believing that helping our kids will somehow hurt THEIRS. Yes, OF COURSE, they should know better…but if they did already such things wouldn’t end up on the ballot. Which would YOU choose if you were convinced [however dishonestly] that YOUR family was in danger?

    The hyperbole of “I stand beside him with an axe” [or something like it] replaces the totally ineffectual Kumbaya crap with the message:

    “ATTENTION! MY family is just as good, just a American, just a deserving of equal protection and opportunity as yours and I will stand up to/fight anyone who says differently.”

    Polarizing????? Honey, THAT ship sailed a long time ago…or did you miss Anita in Miami in 1977 through Prop H8TE last year?

    ENOUGH with the goddamn, “Oh, please Mr. Bill, don’t hurt me” ad campaigns.

    As the song line goes: “It’s not the earth the meek inherit but the dirt.”

    BRAVO, Coach/Father Burke [and his courageous son]!!!

  8. Henry Holland says

    My co-workers are looking at me, wondering why I have tears in my eyes.

    “But on this night in 2007, you are petrified of your dad”

    That was me in 1985, with my hyper-macho ex-military Dad. After the initial shock, he smirked at me “You know, you could have done a better job of hiding it”. [puzzled looks from me] “You think I didn’t put 2 and 2 together when you were listening to Elton John and David Bowie nonstop?”. Hahahaha.

    Great story, Brian Burke did a great job when he was GM of my favorite NHL team, the Canucks. If he’s in charge and the Leafs win the Stanley Cup, he’ll be a God in Toronto forever.

  9. says

    The Toronto Maple Leafs were the first NHL team to allow their name and likeness used in a gay-themed movie, “Breakfast with Scot”. It’s a wonderful movie – and just goes to show that even in hockey, inroads are being made.

  10. soulbrotha says

    “I stand beside him with an axe!”

    I wish my waste of a father had said that instead of “birds of a feather flock together and you can’t flock here” right before he threw me out of the house.

  11. RJ says

    What a most amazing article. I couldn’t get through it without crying, both from the memories of my own coming out and the hope and love with which the writer imbued the article. Best wishes to both Brendan and Brian Burke–a terrific example of true family love.

  12. patrick nyc says

    I sent an email to ESPN, the author emailed back his thanks, he was very humble. I also sent one to the Maple Leafs to Mr Burke’s attention. I don’t care for a reply but we should all applaud these people when they show such love and support to us. It takes as much time as it does to post here or scroll on. Take a minute, thank a real hero.

  13. Darrell says

    It goes to show you that when a society is somewhat progressive, such as here in Canada it filters down into the mainstream, Make no mistake there are A LOT of homophobes here in the great white north, but the vast majority of Canadians have a live and let live attitude. Though with full Constitutional Rights this tempers outbursts to a minimum since it could be regarded as a hate crime, That most Canucks would support, that the Burkes have the strength and guts to voice their experience is a testament to the strength of their family, someth9ing that fringe family value groups in the US could learn from. congratulations to them both, this beats winning the Stanley Cup anyday.

  14. John says

    Bravo to the Burkes! What a classy, loving father and a classy, loving son. If only more American parents reacted this way to the coming out of a son or daughter … And echoing an earlier comment, I also did not care for the writing style of the ESPN piece; however, the overall message trumped the way the article was written.

  15. Don Lakeside says

    Congratulations to the Burke family for how they have handled themselves. Brendan is lucky to be a member of the younger generation and to have such a supportive father. After I was physically beaten by my brother for my orientation at 12 years of age, I never would have thought of breathing a word of it to my own father. I would have been beaten again if I had come out in the hockey world where I once worked. Such is life for those of us born before 1960. Brendan is young and beautiful, so I’m sure he will have no trouble finding a partner in the gay world (we know looks and youth are everything), then he won’t have to endure the depths of loneliness felt by so many of us.

  16. John in Boston says


    Shut up about how superior Canada and Canadians allegedly are vis-a-vis Americans. It isn’t accurate.

    Why do many Canadians use ANY opportunity to look down on and ridicule Americans?

    I have close family in Canada Darrell, so know what I’m talking about. Canadians are pathologically and gratuitously anti-American, doesn’t matter if you’re a gay, bi, or str8 American, doesn’t matter what your politics are. It’s what Canadian nationalism is based on.

    Americans are not all far-right fundamentalist Christians, not by a long shot; and my part of the country they are few and far between. My part of America allows gay marriage, civil unions, and any civil right that exist in Canada, in addition to full freedom of speech, unlike Canada with it’s ‘Hate’ speech laws, and so-called ‘Human Rights’ tribunals.

  17. John says

    Make no mistake about it.

    Homophobia is still a serious problem in Canada at “street level.” While a slim majority of Canadian politicians support equality for gays as a matter of principle, that doesn’t mean the populace has stopped engaging in homophobic behavior. Canadians casually drop the f-bomb as often as their American counterpoints. Even within business circles, juvenile jokes about homosexuality are still fairly common. And, as in the United States, there’s also a general aversion to male displays of affection in general.

    The lack of a powerful religious right makes the hostility a bit less virulent in the political realm. But everyday attitudes in Canada are no more “enlightened” than they are anywhere else.

    That’s going to take more than a law to fix.


    @ TANK:
    There is at least one AXE! waiting for you whenever you want to identify yourself.
    I know of no gay man who trolls straight sites to make a critique of what goes on there or veiled threats to individual writers.
    But your computer individual ID is now on record and will stay on record no matter what you do.
    That way if we ever have a problem, we’ll know where to look.
    Are you still living with your Mom?


    It’s important to acknowledge that it takes no less courage from our fathers as it does from us, to make this declaration and face the heartbreak to comes with it.
    And that for a lot of us, wherever possible, a face-to-face forgiveness, no matter what happened, would change the world overnight.



    Don’t leave the site until you’ve read “Tank:’s post.
    We’ve got a troll and a stalker.

    “I’ve noticed that a lot of you queers will cry at the opening of an envelope.”

    I love a man who can cry. There’s something wrong with a man who doesn’t.

  21. Darrell says


    I have close American family too so don’t go off the deep end, We have wingnuts up here as well, I did not say all Americans are right wing Christians, but they have a VERY powerful lobby in the US which affects your local, state, and federal politics. In fact my married brother is a born again and he respects who I am.

    So lighten up John, If you feel picked on, tough! ask the average Brit, German, Aussie, Kiwi, etc, etc about Americans and you will probably get a similar response. America has a certian reputation due to the policies of past administrations, it’s not Americans themselves people dislike, it’s the endless we’re number one crap you spout! You only look out for yourselves much to the detriment of other nations, As I recall you didn’t show up in WW II until 1941 after you were attacked, the rest of us were in it, starting in 1939, but to listen to you it was the yanks that won it single handedly.

    Look at our history! where did the underground railroad lead to?


    Where did the Anti-Vietnam protesters go to?


    We have a steller record in World War II, the Korean conflict, we smartly avoided Vietnam, and we have nearly 2800 troops in Afghanistan, 3rd after the US and the UK and so far over 150 have died, a far greater rate than either Americans or Brits per capita. So we have earned the right to be who and what we are on the world stage,

    So get off YOUR high horse JOHN, we may be a smaller nation than you but the bulk of the planets population at least respect where we are coming from.

    I do not YOU sewing American Flags on your stuff when you go overseas.

    I respect the USA it’s people like you I have no respect for, If I may suggest do some research on Canadian culture, history, and maybe you will come to some understanding about us, And where we are coming from oh another thing it is called free speech! so why don’t YOU SHUT UP.

    Have a really nice day!


  22. Jason says

    It’s sad to see so much acrimony in the posts higher up. Gay people on both sides of our border admired this kid for being brave (even with the support of one of the most powerful dads in hockey). Hockey is core to Canada’s culture – to us we own the game. We also feel we own some certain cultural liberties that others could learn about. I suspect growing up in Toronto was a huge factor in his being brave enough to be out and proud. He was the type of kid who makes us proud to be Canadian (gay or straight). The Americans who were offended by comparisons of culture may have good points, but really you do need to ask yourselves why it is so much harder to come out and live a full life (marriage etc) in the USA. I hope we can agree it is a difference we’d like to even up! We’d all like to be more free to be ourselves. We’d all like to be able to have true equal human rights. Brendan was striking a course for others to follow – I hope his untimely death doesn’t close up any doors he opened.

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