A courageous young man died Friday at the all-too-early age of twenty-one. Brendan Burke, son to the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, along with his close friend (Mark A. Reedy, 18) died when the vehicle they were travelling in spun out of control due to weather conditions along a snow-covered US Route 35 (Wayne County, IN).
In some respects, young Brendan is seen as a pioneer for GLBTQ acceptance within the NHL. He was likeable, made friends easily and was comfortable enough within his own skin to come out; not only to his family, but also to the Miami University (Ohio) hockey team as their student manager. Everyone responded well to Brendan, looking past his sexual orientation and seeing him for the truly remarkable young man that he was (just as it should be).
Brendan spoke openly about his sexual orientation, hoping to help address homophobia within the sport of hockey. One of the catalysts for his decision to speak out came after he read an article in USA Today by former pro player Justin Bourne.
The elder Burke, Brian, loved and admired his son. He acknowledges the guts that it took for Brendan to come out and in support of his son, he marched with Brendan in the Toronto Pride Parade.
Brian Burke is quoted as having said, “There are gay men in professional hockey. We would be fools to think otherwise. And it’s sad they feel the need to conceal this.” When it comes to integrity, I’m compelled to say, “Like father, like son!” One can only imagine the pain that is now being felt by the families left behind by these two remarkable young men, Brendan Burke and Mark A. Reedy.
May God bless and keep you, Brendan and Mark… and in turn bless your families.
- TSN with Brian and Brendan Burke on coming out (YouTube)
- We love you, this won’t change a thing –Brian Burke, ESPN.com
- Brendan Burke raised awareness by coming out as young, gay athlete; dead at 21 (boston.com)
- Tributess flow in for Brendaan (The Globe and Mail)
- Justin Bourne on Brendan Burke’s untimely death
- Two teams united in grief (The Globe and Mail)
- True advocates hard to find (The Globe and Mail)
- Leafs devastated by death of GM’s son (The Globe and Mail)