June 13, 2012
Jets duo join anti-homophobia campaignGlass, Byfuglien fighting for good cause
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI AGENCY
If homophobia is alive and well in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room, it’ll have Tanner Glass and Dustin Byfuglien to answer to.
The two Jets have joined in the You Can Play campaign, designed to make gay hockey players feel safe in coming out.
“I was happy to do it,” Glass was saying, Wednesday. “No hesitation, whatsoever. It’s a cause I feel is a good one. A no-brainer for me.”
That’s no surprise.
Glass made his feelings known in a Winnipeg Sun article back in March, when the campaign debuted on network television in the U.S..
The people behind the campaign read his comments and asked if he’d get involved.
Glass has felt strongly about the issue since he was at Dartmouth College, where a fellow athlete, a lacrosse player, made headlines by coming out.
“That just brought it to the forefront in my experience,” Glass said. “No one should be afraid to come out and be themselves and be accepted in sports.”
Byfuglien was the campaign’s first choice from the Jets, and he didn’t hesitate, either.
“We’re very excited to have Dustin in there,” the campaign’s Patrick Burke said. “As a young, dynamic player, one of the Jets best players — one of their cornerstone players, and a guy who plays hockey with a lot of joy.”
Burke’s involvement in the campaign stems from his late brother, Brendan’s, coming out while working with Miami of Ohio’s college hockey team, in 2009.
Brendan Burke died in a car accident two years ago.
You can see the latest video involving Byfuglien and Glass at youcanplayproject.org/videos.
The Jets join an all-star roster that includes a mix of skill (Corey Perry, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos) and grit (George Parros, Shawn Thornton, Brandon Prust) that dares anyone to question its masculinity.
“If people want to question their masculinities, I’ll get some popcorn and set this up,” Burke said, displaying the same ability with a quote as his father, Brian, the GM of the Maple Leafs. “You can’t win without a mix of gritty guys. You need guys to do the dirty work. And we wanted some meat.
“If there’s a young, gay enforcer out there, we want him to look up and see that George Parros and Brandon Prust are standing up with him and saying, ‘You can do this.’ ”
In the next while the campaign might land its biggest star yet, as Stanley Cup champions Dustin Brown and Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings have expressed interest in getting on board.
“We’re hoping if we can swing it, have it include Lord Stanley, if at all possible,” Burke said.
Burke acknowledges he’s a touch surprised at the overwhelming response to the campaign. Players are now contacting him to do their part.
But he won’t rest until somebody at the highest level of hockey feels secure enough to be open about his homosexuality.
“Until an NHL player is comfortable coming out, we haven’t done our job to the fullest,” he said. “Ideally, what I need to see is that it’s a non-story. We need it to become commonplace that anyone who wants to come out comes out, and it’s no big deal.
“Like black players in the NHL now. It’s no longer a shocking thing to see a black player in the NHL. I’d like to get it to be that way with gay athletes.”