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NHL, NHLPA combine to form a partnership with You Can Play Project

File photo of Brendan Burke.

The NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association have partnered with the You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization fighting homophobia in sports.

The You Can Play Project was founded by Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke in March 2013 in memory of Brendan Burke, Patrick’s younger brother and the son of former NHL GM Brian Burke.

Brendan Burke, who had revealed his homosexuality to his family in 2007, died in a car accident in 2010 while working as a student manager and video assistant for the men’s hockey team at Miami (Ohio) University.

“The NHL sets the standard for professional sports when it comes to LGBT outreach and we are incredibly grateful for their help and support,” Patrick Burke said in a statement. “We will work with League and NHLPA officials, teams and players to ensure that we create a more inclusive hockey community at all levels.”

You Can Play will conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium and make its resources and personnel available to each individual team as desired.

The NHL and its players will work with You Can Play to integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program to enable players to confidentially seek counselling or simply ask questions regarding matters of sexual orientation.

“Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players’ Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker-rooms and in the stands.”

Added NHLPA executive director Don Fehr: “NHL players have supported the You Can Play Project since its inception, which we are pleased to formalize and expand upon with today’s announcement. The players believe our partnership with the NHL and You Can Play will foster an inclusive hockey environment from the grassroots level to the professional ranks.”

Brian Burke as well as NHL players Tommy Wingels and Andy Miele serve on You Can Play’s advisory board.