The You Can Play Project, the initiative to promote equality for LGBT athletes in locker rooms everywhere, is in many ways the realization of a vision. That vision belonged to Brendan Burke. His name gave him a platform, his voice gave him a following.
As we are now all painfully aware, Brendan Burke was never able to see his vision through to completion, as he died tragically in a car accident in 2010. His father Brian, president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and brother Patrick, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, have picked up the torch lit by the spark that was Brendan Burke.
When Brendan came out as a gay man, he was a student manager for the Miami University hockey team. While Brendan was the engine driving this movement, the gas was provided by the RedHawks. It was Miami’s acceptance of Brendan after his revelation to the group known as “The Brotherhood” that proved there were safe places for LGBT athletes and team staff.
Former Miami players Tommy Wingels and Andy Miele, along with current head coach Rico Blasi sit on the You Can Play Team board.
When You Can Play started making videos, it was well known that Miami would be among the college hockey programs participating. After videos from Denver, Northeastern and an independently produced piece from UConn all came out, I was beginning to wonder when we’d see the team that started it all.
Well, let’s just say it was worth the wait.
Simply stunning. A touching tribute to a brother not forgotten.
The most powerful words in the video come from Blasi: “Brendan had a clear message. That message is now our message. If you can play, you can play.”
The organization has put out many terrific videos, all powerful messages, but few have hit as hard as this one. With beautiful production, music and imagery, this piece leaves the heartstrings significantly tugged.
The fact that Miami has already walked this walk also lends more weight to their words and may make this You Can Play’s most effective PSA yet.
It’s safe to say the RedHawks have gained a few more fans and a mountain of respect. Miami started the season 2-0 with a sweep of Colgate and is currently ranked No. 4 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Polls. It appears they can play.