For the next two weeks we’re running a daily series of our conversations on the red carpet at the ESPYs. This is the seventh in the series.
On the day Mike Modano was named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, he stopped for a brief interview with Outsports at the ESPYs. The NHL's former No. 1 draft pick by the Minnesota North Stars, like so many others we have spoken to, said he would have had no problem with a gay teammate while playing in the NHL.
“I would have no issue with that at all," Modano told Outsports. "A teammate’s a teammate, no matter what race you are, what your attraction is. You’re in the locker room sweating and working hard together. I wouldn’t have any issue with it.”
Modano said he and his wife, actress Willa Ford, have some "best friends" who are gay. The exposure to the entertainment world that Ford brings to Modano has strengthened his acceptance of gay people.
“With the cross-over to the entertainment world, you tend to meet a lot more people," Modano said. "There’s such a macho stigma to athletes, like they’re not open to that sort of thing, they look down on that. But in the entertainment world it’s an open-door kind of thing. It’s not frowned upon.”
Hollywood or not, Ford said she now knows a lot of professional athletes, and she doesn't think any of them are homophobic.
“I don’t know one guy who would ever have a problem with that," Ford said. "A lot of my best friends are gay guys. I bring them around a lot, and I’ve never seen somebody have a problem.”
Modano thinks one of the issues keeping pro athletes in the closet is the fear of opposing fans.
“I think the fan-base, you go into a visiting arena, you might get heckled or beat-down by some fans," Modano said. "So I think there’s a little guard that goes up, saying, I don’t want to expose myself to that type of ridicule.”
Modano played in the NHL for 21 seasons, most of it with the Dallas Stars (formerly the Minnesota North Stars). He played one season with the Detroit Red Wings.
For lots more pro-gay NHL athletes, visit the You Can Play project.
PHOTO: Detroit Red Wings center Mike Modano (90) before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC center. The Hurricanes defeated the Red Wings 3-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE