Just Days After Son Brendan Burke Died, Brian Was There For Team USA. And Decided to Become a Hero

Brian Burke, the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the proud father of recently deceased Brendan, carried the torch of his son’s spirit with him to Vancouver, where Brendan was born. That’s a big deal, because Brian is also the general manager of Team USA (which tonight faces Canada for gold at the 2010 Olympics), and Brian had made a commitment to be there. Not only did he honor that obligation, he used it to honor his son’s memory. Brian might be known for trading barbs off the ice, but when it comes to his gay son, and the importance of gay rights, he’s a class act.

“Lincoln lost a son in the White House. So did Jefferson Davis in the Confederacy. They didn’t go home. They finished the job. USA Hockey didn’t ask me to do this on the basis of, Will you do this if your personal life allows it?” That was Brian, describing why he was in Vancouver just days after his son’s death. And how everything changed.

After Brendan publicly revealed his sexual preference, Brian was flooded with requests to do advocacy work on behalf of gays. He told the groups that while he supported his son, he had other causes: land conservation, blood donation and children’s literacy. He didn’t want to dilute that work. This, too, changed on that Friday in February. Brendan’s causes are Brian’s now. He will do a public-service announcement aimed at eliminating the bullying of gay children. And he plans to march in the Toronto Pride Parade. “I’d promised him I would march with him,” says Burke, who briefly left the Olympics last Friday to attend a memorial service for Brendan at Miami of Ohio. “He won’t be there, but I will.”

March on, pops.

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