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The NBA and NFL have something the NHL doesn’t. An openly gay player. Jason Collins was the first openly gay player in the four major sports, and Michael Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted in to the four major sports. The NHL has not had an openly gay player yet. Statistically speaking, there will be at least one gay player in the NHL fraternity of 750 players.
We wanted to see how hockey players felt about this, so we set out to find how players felt about having a gay teammate. We gave them all anonymity and the opportunity to state their opinions about this topic. We were given almost universal positive opinions on this issue. “I would have zero problem with it whatsoever. I want a good team mate and a person that plays hard every night. Their sexual orientation has no bearing on that. I know in the hockey world it would be a new thing to have a openly gay player, but it would be handled with class and respect.” – unnamed player.
We did have negative opinions on this issue, not because they are homophobic or they didn’t agree with the lifestyle others chose. They were more worried about the media circus that would come along with the an announcement. They didn’t want to have the spotlight of the league on a non-hockey issue. However, many players told me something I believe is echoed widely in the league. They couldn’t care less. They judge teammates on how they play. They don’t care about their sexual orientation, but will they put the extra effort on the ice? Will they get the greasy goals? “It really wouldn’t bother me to have a gay teammate. If they can help us win hockey games and are a generally good person I’d welcome them with open arms. I can’t speak for any of my teammates but I can’t imagine they would feel much differently. Sexual orientation shouldn’t define someone. Their personality and willingness to contribute to the team should.” – Different Unnamed Player.
If there is a gay player in the NHL out there (and according to Patrick Burke, there is.), I leave you with this message, your peers do not really care about your sexual orientation. Just train hard, and play even harder. Be a good teammate, and be a good role model. There’s a lot of kids looking up to you.