I was pleasantly surprised during Sunday’s broadcast of the Boston Bruins – New York Rangers game on NBC when I saw a PSA for the You Can Play Project. What is it? It’s a new organization formed by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, the older brother of the late Brendan Burke and a son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, aka Burkie.
What stunned me were the high profile names involved in in the first of several PSAs that will air throughout the rest of the regular season. The Leafs alone were represented by Burkie, Joffrey Lupul (one of my fave Leafs) and team captain Dion Phaneuf. But Daniel Alfredsson? Scott Hartnell? Both of those guys can be the biggest pricks on the ice but after seeing the following video I won’t be booing them nearly as hard as I once did.
It’s one thing for the Leafs to lend their brand to a movie like Breakfast With Scot or for Burkie to march in Toronto’s Pride Parade but to be part of something like the You Can Play Project is huge. No other sports league in the world is taking such a bold step to make their game and locker rooms welcome to LGBT athletes.
Will a current NHL player come out of the closet? It’s no secret there are LGBT hockey players in the NHL, and I hope the You Can Play Project will make them feel comfortable to be themselves in front of their teammates and fans.