In the NHL, 'gay' is a four-letter word with just three letters

While the NHL and various club front offices have embraced the LGBTQ community, there's still no one who's played in an NHL game who's come out. - Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

To say there has never been a gay player in the National Hockey League is to say the earth is flat and triangular, like a gooey slice of pizza.

But we know it isn't true.

As sure as our Third Rock From The Sun is a spinning, round orb, like a blue 10-pin bowling ball, gay men with wide gaps in their teeth and ill manners have skated, blocked pucks and bare-knuckled one another in the planet's premier puck commune.

We just don't know their identities, which is unique to the NHL.

Whereas players from each of the other major men's pro sports enterprises in North America have stepped forward to join the gay/bisexual roll call—the majority doing so post-career—not a soul among the thousands of men listed on NHL rosters in more than 100 years has outed himself as part of the LGBT(etc.) collective. Nary a one.

What are the odds? Good luck calculating that. Not even Vegas sports books could provide a morning line on such an improbable circumstance, because the notion that there's never been a gay/bisexual NHL player is as believable as the Tooth Fairy leaving a dollar bill under the Easter Bunny's pillow.

So what is it about the NHL that keeps current and former gay players closeted?

Well, we've heard all the cave-dweller recitations about how it's a man's game, perhaps even the manliest of man's games. Yes, even manlier than football, where the practitioners fling their large bodies at each other with careless abandon. NHL players do the same thing, of course, only at heightened speeds and while wielding weapons. There is, after all, nothing so manly as a hockey stick to the chops, unless it's a fist to the chops, which is also unique to the NHL. It remains the sole major men's pro sports league on the continent that tolerates (encourages?) bare-knuckle brawling, and it's often scripted.

But we also know that there's a long-held belief that gay equals weaker-than in the NHL, a homophobic put-down that likely carries currency to this day.

No surprise, therefore, to learn that Kyle Beach was the target of homophobic taunting and ridicule by members of the Chicago Blackhawks at training camp 2010, scant months after informing club officials that he stood before them as a victim of sexual assault, the culprit being then-video coach Brad Aldrich.

"Word spread pretty quick," Beach told Rick Westhead of TSN in an emotion-charged interview on Wednesday. "I do believe everyone in that locker room knew about it, because the comments were made in the locker room, they were made on the ice, they were made around the arena with all different people of all different backgrounds, players, staff, media in the presence."

The Blackhawks went to considerable lengths in a quest to hush-hush the (alleged) sexual assault of one-time top prospect Beach during a successful Stanley Cup crusade in spring 2010, and they managed to keep their dirty, little secret on the QT for 11 years. But the kitty leaped out of the burlap this week with the release of a 107-page Jenner & Block report on the incident and the fallout.

In the ensuing hours, jobs have been lost by men with Hockey Hall of Fame resumés and the NHL is once again applying a slab of raw meat to yet another black eye.

But why did it take 11 years and a special investigation before the Blackhawks' dirty laundry was hung out to dry? Simple: In the NHL, "gay" is a four-letter word with just three letters, and any hint of homosexuality is best swept under a convenient area rug.

Aldrich is a sexual predator who preys on gay men and teenage boys and whose name appears on a sex-offender roster. He no longer works in the NHL, and his name is to be X'd off the Stanley Cup. Beach is not a gay man, but he was (allegedly) sexually assaulted by a gay man and his name never appeared on a regular or post-season NHL lineup sheet.

Is that because Beach didn't have the skill, even though he was the 11th shoutout overall in the NHL's annual auction of freshly scrubbed teenage boys in 2008? Or is it because of the Aldrich assault and, thus, he'd been exposed to "gayness?" That is, he doesn't meet the required manliness of NHL players.

"They are always very concerned that they are going to be judged as to why didn't you fight back? Why didn't you fight harder? You're a male. You're bigger than him. Why didn't you just push him off and walk away," Debra Perry told ABC7 in Chicago.

Perry is the director of crisis intervention and advocacy services at the YWCA in Chitown, and attorney Mike Finnegan of Jeff Anderson and Associates echoes her thoughts.

"The shame that goes along with same-sex sexual assault often prevents survivors from coming forward," said Finnegan, who has represented numerous sex assault victims and survivors. "And in a situation like this for Kyle is exacerbated in a situation of professional sports where it's even that much more difficult to come forward in that environment."

In truth, all shame belongs to Blackhawks' management and the NHL, for the coverup and the denials and for allowing sexual predator Brad Aldrich to participate in post-Stanley Cup hijinks.

If they had Beach's balls, this would have been sorted out in 2010, not 2021.