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NHL player Andrew Shaw details his evolution on LGBTQ issues since gay slur incident

The longtime Blackhawks forward says the experience opened up his eyes about the LGBTQ community.

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Winnipeg Jets v Dallas Stars
Andrew Shaw played 10 seasons in the NHL, seven of which with the Blackhawks.
Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw said one of the most vile anti-gay slurs on national TV in the middle of an NHL playoff game. He went through the subsequent suspension and apology dance, like so many others before him.

But he also listened. Today, Shaw says he’s committed to eradicating the casual homophobia that pervades locker rooms.

“As we all grow up and learn, you meet people and have friends and family in that community,” Shaw told The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “They help you learn what they go through in their everyday life and you realize that words can hurt. And they cut deep. Since then, I’ve changed. I made sure I took it out of my vocabulary.”

Lazerus wrote an interesting feature story on the evolving culture of the NHL, in which overt homophobia is less widespread than it used to be, players and coaches say.

Shaw is one of those players. During the 2016 playoffs, the now-retired forward yelled “fucking faggot” from the penalty box. Shaw expressed remorse afterwards, saying he was “sincerely sorry” for his “insensitive remarks.”

The NHL suspended him for one game.

Looking back, Shaw says he’s “grateful” for the experience. It opened his eyes to the harm of his words.

“I grew up in a small town, played with the same guys every year,” Shaw said. “That word was used from when I was a kid up to playing in the OHL to playing in the NHL.”

The NHL’s progress on LGBTQ issues is apparent. All 32 teams have hosted some sort of Pride or Inclusion Night, and many are upping the ante. The Montreal Canadiens recently auctioned off 32 player-signed Pride jerseys for charity, and the Vancouver Canucks created arguably the best Pride jerseys ever.

The landscape is becoming more welcoming for LGBTQ players, largely thanks to the influx of young players and their more inclusive attitudes. We’ve published many coming-out stories from young hockey players in recent years.

But there is still work to be done. A veteran Eastern Conference player told Lazerus gay slurs are still heard on the ice, albeit less frequently. The AHL recently suspended a player eight games for homophobic language.

Last year, former Blackhawks defenseman Kyle Beach told the harrowing story about how his teammates allegedly bullied him after he was sexually assaulted by the team’s video coach in 2010.

Shaw wasn’t on that Blackhawks team — he was drafted the following year. But if he encountered a similar situation now, here’s hoping he would speak up.