A courageous gay athlete – role model dies in a tragic car crash

I knew that Hockey Night in Canada starts at 6:30 pm EST Saturdays but that’s about as much as I bring to this game which so engrosses my country (a) because I’m not an athlete and (b) because my elementary school hockey instructor was the same monster who bullied me as a teacher. (Needless to say he was a huge fan of Don Cherry and his ways – coaching, communications skills, etc.)

Just last year, though, my flat-line interest stirred when I saw the courage of Brendan Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, come out as a gay man and student hockey manager and player.

What a shock, then, to learn last evening of the death in a snowy afternoon traffic accident in Indiana of the 21-year old and his 18-year old companion Mark Reedy.

In interviews with father and son last year, it was clear that Brendan’s coming out was met with love and acceptance – a dream response for any gay kid, to say nothing of one whose family is so involved with macho, so often homophobic, sports.

Tonight’s hockey telecast began with fitting tributes to Brendan and I was proud that you could have heard a pin drop at the Air Canada Centre during a moment of silence just before the puck dropped.

I can only think about Brendan’s family and friends, as well as the Reedy family, wishing them a bit of the peace and comfort that comes when gathered together under such terribly sad circumstances.