Athletes' sexuality is no one's business

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:32 PM ET

It's not really any of our business if an athlete is gay.

If a gay player in the NHL wants to keep his sexuality to himself, that is his right.

But if he wanted to come out in a safe and indifferent environment, he also should have that right.

A discussion about being gay in a male hockey environment isn't about outing anyone; it's about moving toward an environment where a gay player would feel comfortable enough to declare his sexuality.

On the first anniversary of the death of Brendan Burke, the 21-year-old student manager of the Miami University hockey team who came out in November 2009 with the support of his family -- including his father Brian, the Toronto Maple Leafs president and GM -- and his team, are we closer to having that environment?

"I hope so. We've gotten e-mails from people who said they were inspired by Brendan's story either to come out or work toward it, to step up their advocacy," Brendan's brother, Patrick, said. "One of my good friends from college came out after Brendan's story. He was inspired by that.

"I do know there are some people who feel that if this kid at age 20, as a college senior, can go on national television and tell the entire sports world about his sexuality, then we know there are kids who have said 'I can tell my parents,' 'I can tell my friends' or 'I can tell my team.' "

Brendan Burke died in a car accident in a snowstorm a year ago Saturday, but you would have to think he would be encouraged by the discussion he started with his decision to come out.

HEAR AND THERE: One of the ways a coach can keep things fresh for his players is changing up practices. Tampa's Guy Boucher broke things up for the Lightning the other day, holding three separate 45-minute practices: One with the defencemen; one with the first and second lines; and one with the third and fourth lines. His reasoning? "They're smart with the team system, but with individual techniques and tactics, you'd be surprised at how much work they need." ... The Minnesota Wild has moved back into the playoff picture in the West, thanks mostly to a 9-2-1 performance on the road. The Wild has won 15 away from home this season; 13 all of last season.

THE BUZZ: A guy who could help a team at the trade deadline is Columbus Blue Jackets unrestricted free-agent defenceman Jan Hejda. Not much of a price ($2-million cap hit). Not hearing his name much, but somebody should pick him up ... St. Louis Blues defenceman Erik Johnson took a puck in the mouth in practice and lost three Chiclets. It reminded teammates of former Blue Keith Tkachuk, who had the same thing happen last season. "Guys said I kind of looked like (Tkachuk)," Johnson said, "minus the ass and the 500 goals."

JUST SAYING: The Senators have no intention of trading captain Daniel Alfredsson, but that hasn't stopped at least one Western Conference team with some Swedes who would like to play with their buddy from calling ... It's a good debate: Who is the slowest skater to get to 1,000 games in the NHL? Minnesota's Andrew Brunette is in the running. "I loved going with Bruno in skating drills," former teammate Ray Ferraro told Mike Russo of the Star Tribune. "You always looked like you had a little hop in your step if you were going with Bru." Ferraro, who calls Brunette his favourite teammate, tells this story: While with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2000, they were already minus-2 in a game they trailed by three goals and with their net empty. "Bruno skates over to me like he's going to give me some brilliant piece of advice. I'm thinking, 'We're down by three, Bruno, with 20 seconds left. There's no advice at this point other than kick a field goal.' He goes, 'Shoot it in the corner and I'll fall on it. This way nothing else bad can happen.' I did everything I could not to laugh while taking the faceoff. I was just thinking, 'Oh my God. He's the best.'"

JUST WONDERING: Does anybody find it at least a bit interesting the New York Rangers are looking at a big-money defenceman sent down to the AHL (Sheldon Souray) after demoting Wade Redden coming out of training camp?

THE LAST WORD: The one-punch putdown by Penguins G Brent Johnson of Isles G Rick DiPietro crosses another thing off Johnson's Bucket List, it seems. "It was something I've kind of wanted to do for a while. Maybe it was a little bit of frustration with some things, and it all came out (last night) ... maybe years of something, just pent up. I never saw Led Zeppelin, and I never will. It was just something I've been looking forward to getting an opportunity to do, and it just kind of happened."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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