Brendan Burke buried today.
Brendan Burke, whose story I told earlier this week, was buried today. Press reports say the large Catholic Church, where the funeral was held, was packed full well before the start of the funeral and that people lined the walls to pay their respects. Attendance was close to 1,000 people. The mourners were a who's who of the world of ice hockey.
The majority of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team were present. Reports were that the team decided they wanted to attend. At the front of the church were the members of the hockey team from Miami University, where Brendan had been student manager. Members of Branden's high school hockey team also attended. The sports columnist for the Toronto Sun reported:
As the services progresses, Brendan Burke is portrayed as a big-hearted kid who could be described by three Cs — caring, compassionate and courageous.Brendan's brother, Patrick, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, delivered a eulogy. He said Brendan was "strong and unyielding in his convictions but soft, sweet and gentle in their application. He said his brother "was the face of a movement and will always be the soul of a family. To many of us, Brendan's world was a dream world. Brendan had the courage to transcend cynicism and fear and live for 21 glorious years in that dream." Patrick then said: "Through all of us, his hope still lives and his dream will never die." The mourners erupted in applause of support.
It was his courageousness that was on display when Brendan first admitted he was gay, a story that received national fanfare back in November. It was that same courageousness, the packed house is told, that is helping those in the hockey world to look at the complex issue of sexual preferences and gay rights with more open minds.
On this day, there are plenty of hockey’s movers and shakers on hand to heed that message. Former NHLers Mark Messier and Brendan Shanahan are in attendance, as are GMs Doug Wilson (San Jose), Darryl Sutter (Calgary), Peter Chiarelli (Boston), Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia), Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota), Glen Sather (Rangers), Bob Murray (Anaheim) and Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey), just to name a few. Rangers coach John Tortorella, commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, NHL COO John Collins and a host of other league executives are sprinkled throughout the church, too.
“It shows what Brian means to people and how they want to support him in this time of need,” Bettman says.
On this day, hockey disputes are irrelevant. That’s why two normally bitter rivals in the Battle of Alberta, the Oilers’ Quinn and the Flames’ Sutter, are sitting next to each other. That’s why Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson shakes hands with Team USA co-GM David Poile, just 12 days before the Canadians and Americans face off against each other at the Vancouver Olympics.
On this day, losses in the standings mean nothing. On this day, it’s all about the loss of a young man, Brendan Burke, who left this world far too soon.
Some of Brian's friends, who had gone to elementary school with him, were there as well. One said that: "He was a very good friend to all of us, always trying to make us laugh, always put us first and he was always there for us where we needed it." The friend, Steve Ivanoski, said that he knew that when Brendan told his story about being gay he "was getting emails" from others. Brendan had mentioned this himself on other occasions. Burke, said Ivanoski, "was helping out anyone who had any problem with it," and who had written him.
Meanwhile, at Wikipedia, some individuals have filed complaints trying to get the entry about Brendan Burke removed from the site. Justin Bourne, sports columnist and former hockey player, whose column condemning homophobia in hockey caught Branden's attention, and lead to the article published by ESPN that told Branden's story to the world, pointed to a genuine response by a 17-year-old hocked play in Minnesota. The anonymous player has a blog about his life as a gay hockey plaher. I have taken the liberty of adding punctuation, some the young in government schools seem to have not been taught. Beyond punctuation and some type corrections, I have not changed these sentiments in any way. But this young man deserves to be heard:
"I wanted so bad to talk to him and tell him how much he meant to me, but I never did get ahold of him. I wanted to tell him that he's my hero that, like Bobby Orr changed the game, Brendan Burke changed the game too, for thousands of kids like me. But now he's gone... this brave, strong, kid is gone and all the scared kids like me are left with no one to lead us. Yea, the world's a lot crappier place this week because of this. Life's totally unfair. The kid died before he got live his full life without lying, he died before he got to lead a team to win that cup he's hugging, he died before ever got to realize how much of a difference he made to a stupid hockey kid in Minnesota."