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Brendan Burke
Born Brendan G. Burke
December 8, 1988[1]
Vancouver, BC[2]
Died February 5, 2010 (aged 21)[3]
Economy, Indiana[4]
Alma mater Miami University
Occupation Hockey management
Hockey goalie
Employer Miami University
Home town Canton, Massachusetts
Known for LGBT activism[5]
Parents Brian Burke, Kerry G. Burke[6][3]

Brendan G. Burke (December 8, 1988[1] – February 5, 2010) was an openly gay athlete and the younger son of Brian Burke,[4] general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and of the US Olympic hockey team.[7] In November, 2009, he made international headlines for coming out, advocating for tolerance and speaking out against homophobia in professional sports.[3][5][8] He was viewed as a "pioneer in a sport that has never had an out athlete."[9][10]


Early life

Burke was born on December 8, 1988, in Vancouver, BC[1] and was the younger son and third of four children of his father's first marriage.[5] His parents divorced in 1995 and in 1997 he moved with his mother, Kerry to Boston, Massachusetts. [2]

Burke played hockey as a goaltender on the high school varsity team,[2] but quit because he worried that his teammates would discover that he was gay.[11] He graduated from Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, Massachusetts,[2] and often returned to speak on tolerance.[3]

After high school, Burke couldn't decide between going to law school (after completing college), or a career in hockey management.[3] He interned on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2009 for U.S. Representative Bill Delahunt.[3] He became a student manager at Miami University.[11]

The Burke family lives in Canton, Massachusetts.[3]

Coming out and advocacy

Imagine if I was in the opposite situation, with a family that wouldn't accept me, working for a sports team where I knew I couldn't come out because I'd be fired or ostracized ... people in that situation deserve to know that they can feel safe, that sports isn't all homophobic and that there are plenty of people in sports who accept people for who they are.

—Brendan Burke,

On December 30, 2007, Burke came out to his father, then-general manager of the Anaheim Ducks Brian Burke, after attending a Ducks game in Vancouver.[5][2] Brian was accepting of his son's sexuality.[5] As an advocate, Burke returned yearly to his high school to give talks on his experience coming to terms with his sexuality in a largely homophobic sports culture and the positive personal impact of his father's support.[12]

In November 2009, Burke told the Miami University hockey team, of which he was also the video coordinator, that he was gay. The story was leaked to[5] The Burkes appeared on the Canadian sports channel TSN, where Brendan Burke said he hoped his story would give others the confidence to come forward. Burke was a former goalie, who analyzed video and did stats at Miami.[2] The team's coach, Enrico Blasi, and the rest of the team first learned of Burke's sexual orientation after the Frozen Four NCAA men's hockey championship in 2009.[2] His team was also accepting of his sexuality.[11]

Burke's public coming out was met with wide support from the press and fans,[13] with the ESPN interview garnering praise from the hockey world.[9] The news of his father's acceptance of his sexual orientation also earned Brian Burke praise from press and fans inside and outside the hockey world.[13] The news further launched Brendan into advocacy, speaking about homophobia in hockey and encouraging discussion on the challenges faced by gay athletes in hockey and mainstream sports in general.[8][14] In a later TSN interview, Burke stated that he hoped that telling his story would allow gay athletes and pro sports workers to know that there were supportive, safe environments for them and would encourage them to step forward as well.[12] Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Toronto, began using Burke's coming out story as a teaching tool, stating that the story could "change so many families across Canada, particularly because so many young boys are expected to grow up playing with a hockey stick and make their dads happy."[15] His coming out story gained further attention from a large variety of news outlets in the days that followed.[13] Interest in Brendan's story was attributed to both his relation to his father and "hockey's sometimes homophobic culture."[13]

Brendan Burke became well known in hockey circles following his public coming out.[12] Blasi described Burke's presence as a "blessing," creating awareness within the program about homophobia.[16] TSN sportscaster James Cybulski commented that the reaction to Burke's story, and that it was a major story in the first place, demonstrated the need for Burke and his whole family to stand tall as a major step forward for all minorities.[17]'s podcast Hockey Roundtable featured a discussion between sports writers Eric Duhatschek and James Mirtle about the dialogue concerning openly gay athletes and high profile employees in major hockey franchises that resulted from Burke's interview about his struggles with hiding his sexuality and eventual coming out. Duhatschek commented that NHL players were reluctant to discuss the recent news and the subject in general, attributing it to a culture of machismo in professional sports. Assistant coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, David King, stated that he felt that like athletic sports' role in breaking down the racial barrier, sports would do the same for gay athletes, albeit stressing that he felt it "would take some time." Mirtle agreed, discussing the challenges of prejudice that closeted and out hockey athletes may face and highlighting NBA star John Amaechi's 2007 coming out as an example of strong anti-gay attitudes in the NBA and larger sports world.[18]


Burke died February 5, 2010, at the age of 21 in an automobile accident.[4][3][5][12] While driving in heavy snow near Economy, Indiana,[4] his 2004 Jeep Cherokee slid sideways into the path of an oncoming Ford truck, killing him and his passenger, Mark Reedy, a Michigan State University athlete.[19][4][5][3]

A moment of silence was observed prior to the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators game on February 6, 2010.[7][20] Another moment of silence was also observed prior to the Miami University hockey game vs. Lake Superior State on February 6, 2010. The team also named him honorary first star of the game.[21] The St. Louis Blues also held a moment of silence for Brendan Burke prior to their Saturday night game against the Chicago Blackhawks.[9] Mirtle wrote in an article in The Globe and Mail published after Burke's death that he "was widely hailed as a pioneer in a sport that has never had an openly out athlete."[9]


  1. ^ a b c Olson, Lisa Brian Burke: A Father's Love Story Olympics Fanhouse, February 15, 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Buccigross, John (2 December 2009). "'We love you, this won't change a thing'". Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Algarin, Renee Nadeau (7 February 2010). "‘Fearless,’ he changed hockey’s view of homosexuality". Boston Herald. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "UPI News - Sports". UPI. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Maple Leaf GM's 21-year-old son killed in car crash". National Post. 6 February 2010. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  6. ^ "'Brendan Burke Death Notice: Brendan Burke's Obituary'". The Boston Globe. 7 February 2009. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "Son of Toronto Maple Leafs, U.S. men's hockey GM Brian Burke killed in car accident". The Star-Ledger. Associated Press (Toronto: New Jersey On-Line). February 6, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Blair, Jeff (6 February 2010). "'True advocates like Brendan Burke are hard to come by'". Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Leafs Win One for Brian Burke". February 6, 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "'Hockey world mourns Brendan Burke'". 9 February 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c Pollak, David (6 February 2010). "Sharks update: Tragic tale dampens Boyle's special trip". Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c d Stickgold, Emma (8 February 2010). "Brendan Burke, 21; raised awareness by coming out as young, gay athlete". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c d McGran, Kevin (27 November 2009). "’Brendan Burke: Support ‘overwhelmingly positive’‘". Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  14. ^ Mick, Hayley (30 December 2010). "'Eight stories that rocked the fitness world'". Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  15. ^ Fitz-Gerald, Sean (8 February 2010). "’Son of Leafs' GM Brian Burke remembered as "courageous and brave young man"'". The Canadian Press. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  16. ^ Cox, Damien (25 November 2009). "'Cox: A son's secret, Brian Burke's love'". Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  17. ^ Cybulski, James (27 November 2009). "’Cybulski: Burke news shows how far we still have to go'". Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  18. ^ "Hockey Roundtable – “Is the NHL ready for an openly gay player?: The Hockey Roundtable on the courage of Brendan Burke, the Blackhawks' stellar play and Pascal Leclaire's lousy luck”". Presenter: Darren Yourk. Hockey Roundtable Podcast. ’’, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 2009-11-26. 27:51 minutes in.
  19. ^ News - Sports "Bloomfield Hills native Mark Reedy and Brendan Burke, son of NHL general manager, die in car crash". 6 February 2010. News - Sports. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  20. ^ MacKinnon, John (8 February 2010‎). "'Both Burke men demonstrated courage'". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  21. ^ "Miami vs. Lake Superior State Post Game Notes". Miami University. February 6, 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 


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