Team USA Hockey Coach Brian Burke to be Gay Rights Advocate in Honor of His Late Son Brendan

The U.S. Olympic hockey team and its general manager Brian Burke, who lost his gay son Brendan Burke in a car accident just weeks ago, has made it to the semifinals. Sports Illustrated profiles Burke, who talks about his son's death and the commitments he has made to carry on his legacy:

Burke A few days after Brendan came out to his father, in late December 2007, Brian told him, "You know the best part? I don't have to take anything back." Burke says he never told his children there was anything wrong with homosexuality. But when he really rummages through his memory, he concedes there are smudges on his otherwise clean conscience. When he played in the American Hockey League in the late 1970s—he was a stay-at-home defenseman whose skills fast-tracked him to Harvard Law School—he spoke in the lingua franca of the locker room. "Yeah, I used those slurs," he says. "I'm embarrassed by it. It was an accepted part of the [hockey] culture, and it still is. But not on my teams. It's a big part of trash talking, and that's got to change."

After Brendan publicly revealed his sexual preference, Brian was flooded with requests to do advocacy work on behalf of gays. He told the groups that while he supported his son, he had other causes: land conservation, blood donation and children's literacy. He didn't want to dilute that work. This, too, changed on that Friday in February. Brendan's causes are Brian's now. He will do a public-service announcement aimed at eliminating the bullying of gay children. And he plans to march in the Toronto Pride Parade. "I'd promised him I would march with him," says Burke, who briefly left the Olympics last Friday to attend a memorial service for Brendan at Miami of Ohio. "He won't be there, but I will."

Good luck to Mr. Burke and to Team USA!


  1. JauntyJohn says

    A good story and a good man — I am sorry for his loss, but no doubt his son would be very proud.

    A small aside, though, is that it surprised me to read that old chestnut sexual “preference.” Ah well, it *is* Sports Illustrated. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly…

  2. patrick nyc says

    I know how hard it was for my Dad to come around, but he did. My hat of to all those Dads who make peace and love their kids for who they are. My prayers to Burke and his family on this journey.

  3. Bayley says

    This is seriously one of the most touching stories I’ve ever read on here. I have tears streaming down my face and I don’t easily get emotional. Please SHARE THIS STORY (on facebook) with your friends. I’m moved beyond words right now.

    Go Team USA (in Hockey) indeed!!!!

  4. androjai says

    Sometimes the graetest tragedies bring out the best in people. I am glad that he has chosen to carry on his son’s advocacy. It will help him in the healing process.
    Wish more out there were like him.

  5. nick says

    What a great man! What a great family and what an amazing son. Take that right wing homophobes!!! I read the story in SI and I’m still crying…
    I’m on Team Burke now!!!

  6. tony says

    This is a great guy, it is so cool that he is picking up the fight that his son started. Check out this kid in Minnesota who is gay an plays hockey. He wrote a really nice tribute to Brendan. Look up the blog by hockeykidmn.

  7. Chris says

    I have found this story enormously touching and have a great deal of respect for Brian Burke and wish him all the best except for the gold medal. That belongs to Team Canada.

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