In a survey of NHL players by USA TODAY, 34 of 35 players said they would accept an openly gay teammate. The survey was anonymous, so we have no idea who was the holdout player in the survey.
"I'm not surprised by that," said Calgary Flames president Brian Burke told the newspaper. "I'm disappointed by the one player. I don't think our players have an issue with gay players. I think the first player to come out is going to find an unbelievably welcome reception. I think my generation has a bigger problem than their generation when it comes views on the gay community."
Burke's late son Brendan was openly gay, while son Patrick founded the wonderful You Can Play Project. You Can Play has its roots in the NHL, since that was the first league that embraced the initiative. Brian Burke said that: "When we shot the first set of You Can Play (promotional) videos, guys were stopping me at rinks and saying, "Why didn't you ask me?" Guys were mad. Guys were insulted that we didn't ask them. That's when I thought, ‘Wow, we are farther ahead than I thought."
The near-total acceptance of an openly NHL gay teammate is great, but the league still has me scratching my head at this fact: There has not been an openly gay active NHL player, nor (as far as I can tell) a publicly out retired player. The latter is baffling to me and I can't figure out why the league lags behind the NBA, NFL and MLB in that fact. I long assumed that the historically more liberal Canadian culture, along with the influx of many Northern European players, would have meant at least a couple of out players. I must be missing something and anyone who has a theory, please post in the comments.