Brian Burke has always been a figurehead in the NHL spectrum that I've always admired.
He has a way of being the most honest and outspoken member of the general managers, and is never, ever afraid to say anything. But it was last year that we got to see a different side of Burke--acceptance. His son, Brendan, was playing hockey as a goaltender in high school and became a student manager at Miami University of Ohio, and it was in those years at high school he discovered his homosexuality. He quit the high school team because he was afraid of his teammates figuring out.
Turns out, he had one HELL of a group of guys at Miami University of Ohio, because all of his teammates, including the coach, Enrico Blasi, gave him full support of his orientation. No questions asked. It wasn't a big deal at all. Huge praise came to the Burke family, with tons of support coming from fans and the press alike.
Goes to show you, homosexuality in the athletic world means absolutely nothing in a negative sense, when you put your mind to it. John Buccigross wrote a long article for ESPN, and TSN did a long interview with both Brian and Brendan Burke, continuing to spread the word of the acceptance of not only his sexuality, but the fight to accept gay athletes.
It just felt like for the first time in a while, a great man with a great passion and great vision would stick around and make a huge impact in the world.
Then, it happened. One year ago, while driving in Indiana with a friend, Mark Reedy, the horrible road conditions forced Burke to lose control of his car and hit an oncoming truck...and that was that.
Brendan Burke, dead at the age of 21. An unspeakably awful tragedy that struck the hockey world and the sports world right at the heart. It goes to show you that sometimes, the wrong people are taken away at the worst possible times. But what Brendan Burke did for the world was take the first of many bold steps in the fight for acceptance. He was an advocate, but not a martyr. He and his mission will be forever missed.
Continue to rest in peace, Brendan. One day, that vision will be complete. You took the biggest step that nobody had the courage to.
Because you were a Burke. And the Burke family does bold things all the time.