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Successful discussion of gay issues at American Hockey Coaches Association convention

Patrick Burke (left) with brother Brendan.

GForce hockey and Patrick Burke held a panel discussion at the American Hockey Coaches Association convention last weekend. The discussion was attended by coaches at all levels of hockey.

A full press release on the convention and the group's push to further discussions of gay athletes in hockey is after the jump.

Naples, FL – Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke and members of GForce Sports this afternoon told members of the American Hockey Coaches Association that coaches must take responsibility for positive attitudes toward gay athletes in their locker rooms.

“Coaches set the tone for a team, not just on the ice, court or field of play, but in the locker room and other parts of sports,” Burke said. “It is up to coaches to start the dialogue about gay players and then guarantee that safe locker rooms lead to better athletes.”

Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, began speaking on behalf of gay athletes following the death of his younger brother, Brendan Burke, an openly gay member of Miami University’s hockey team last year. Miami coach Rico Blasi introduced Burke at the AHCA conference, telling the coaches that his team’s experience with a gay teammate enriched and changed all of their lives.

Openly gay former college hockey player David Farber and lacrosse star Andrew McIntosh told the coaches that their coming out to teammates resulted in nothing but support and improved play.

Coaches questioned the players about how coming out changed the dynamics of their teams and how best to address parents’ questions about gay athletes. McIntosh’s mother and grandmother were in the audience.

“GForce and Patrick are working toward a day when players have moved from being known as ‘gay athletes’ to ‘athletes who happen to be gay’,” said Glenn Witman, GForce president.

GForce Sports is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equality in sports regardless of sexual orientation. In addition to friendly competition between gay and straight teams, GForce provides speakers from a number of sports through its “Invisible Athlete” forums and one-on-one mentoring of athletes working through issues of sexuality with its Athlete Buddy System. For more information, visit www.GForceSports.org.