The text from Sidney Crosby flashed onto his phone.
“We are happy for you and I am sure it feels good to get that off your shoulders and to be able to be you.”
Then Connor McDavid.
“Doesn’t change a thing dude honestly. Just happy ur happy!’’
Bayne Pettinger has experienced nothing but support since coming out, including from some of the biggest stars in hockey.
Pettinger is a player agent for CAA Hockey and recently started telling friends he’s gay. He publicly came out Thursday in an article published by The Athletic.
Prior to stepping into the agency world, Pettinger was Hockey Canada’s manager of hockey operations and men’s national teams from 2010-19. In that role, he met several NHL superstars, and has maintained friendships with many of them today — including Crosby and McDavid.
“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Pettinger told Pierre LeBrun.
Though Pettinger has been out to his immediate family for years, he only started telling his friends recently. He was tired of living a double life and wanted to be open with everybody. Brendan Burke’s legacy also inspired him.
Burke, the son of longtime NHL executive Brian Burke, came out in 2009 while working for the Miami University men’s hockey team. Tragically, Brendan died in a car accident the following year. Brendan’s death propelled his father and brother Patrick to launch the You Can Play Project, which seeks to fight homophobia in sports.
Pettinger, who personally spoke with Brian Burke prior to coming out, says he hopes his story can be an inspiration to others — just like Brendan’s was to him.
“There is a spot for gay people in the hockey world,” he said. “If you’re passionate about the game and knowledgeable about the game, it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is.”
Pettinger is from a hockey family. His brother, Matt, played in the NHL for 10 years, spending seven seasons with the Washington Capitals.
While Pettinger’s coming out experience has been overwhelmingly positive, he knows that isn’t the case for everybody around men’s hockey. He also knows that when more people come out, the stigma continues to fade.
“I’m one small piece of the puzzle that’s trying to help the cause,” he said. “And if it normalizes it to see a person like me in the game, then great. That’s all I’m hoping to do.’’
The men’s hockey world is changing. We’ve profiled numerous out men’s high school and college hockey players over the last year, including Stephen Finkle, who reached out to four NHL players on social media prior to coming out. They all responded to his messages with words of support.
In September, an elite teenage Canadian hockey player, Yanic Dupelessis, publicly came out.
Pettinger is now part of that group. He says it’s liberating to be his true self.
“I wanted to be sure of myself before I was ready to present myself,” he told LeBrun. “It sounds a bit cliché, but you have to be able to love yourself before you love others.’’
Read the full story here.