There still aren’t any openly gay athletes in any of the four major American sports leagues, but when the time comes for a player to take that first crucial step out of the closet, Aaron Ward (pictured) says it will most likely be in the NHL.
The three-time Stanley Cup winning former NHL defenceman and current sports network host sat down with The Montreal Gazette to talk about his latest project, a three-part television feature on Canada’s TSN called ReOrientation, and said “the NHL is further ahead than most of the other major sports leagues.” He believes the first openly gay LGBT athlete will hail from the NHL because it’s one of the most accepting, and the only where “there has been progress in addressing homophobia in the locker room.”
Ward’s ReOrientation examines homophobia in sports and features interviews with major league stars on the topic. He says his interview with Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown moved him the most.
When asked by Ward how the LA Kings would react to one of their teammates coming out, Brown responded:
I think as a group of guys, we would be fine with it. There might be some players who are uncomfortable, but they’d be okay with it. The one thing, for me as a captain (I’d say): ‘This is our teammate … He’s going to help us win games. It’s not any different from two weeks ago when we were battling together.’ If that type of situation arose, this guy’s our teammate and we’re going to have his back no matter what.
The series also observes the relationship between the NHL and You Can Play, the organization that works to eradicate homophobia in sports, and the active push from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to remove gay slurs from the locker room and the ice.
To check out all three episodes of Aaron Ward’s ReOrientation, visit TSN on YouTube. The final episode in which Brown’s comments are made is posted below: