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NHL Will Be First Major Sports League To Welcome LGBT Athlete, Says Aaron Ward

Ward-Bruins Aaron WardThere 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:

On:           Jan 23, 2014
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    • alterego1980

      No matter which sport is first, I applaud the NHL for the work they are doing to make an accepting locker room. They are far ahead of the other sports.
      Personally, I think it will take a star athlete coming out of college, or a few years after. Someone who grew up in a more accepting environment that they are currently creating. Not someone who is currently in a professional locker room…to break that barrier (in 1 of the 4 majors)

      Jan 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mjwatts

      I agree with that, especially considering all the work the NHL is doing to make sure it’s a safe environment for queer players.

      Hopefully once one does it (from any of the big four) it will help others to feel safe in doing the same.

      Jan 23, 2014 at 3:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • KittyLitter

      *openly* gay

      Jan 23, 2014 at 3:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BJ McFrisky

      Three things I’m sick of hearing about:
      1) Obamacare
      2) Bridgegate
      3) A major athlete is “about to” come out.

      How about you inform us . . . oh, I don’t know . . . maybe AFTER someone actually does so and makes news.

      Jan 23, 2014 at 3:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jackhoffsky

      Three things I’m sick of hearing about:

      1) Those who take the time to complain about the very subjects they are sick of hearing about… thus adding to the discussion.
      2) People who present the internet in a way where information is “forced” on them, as if void of free will and the power to use a mouse or finger to simply read something more suited to their tastes.
      3) Personal opinion and judgmental relevance posed as “observational” critique.

      That’s just me, however. Why don’t you inform us… oh, I don’t know… maybe AFTER you decide to get a clue. The article is about Aaron Ward, not our (admitted) obsession with celebrity outing.

      Jan 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • KDub

      Of course it would be the one sport no one gives a sh!t about. lol

      Jan 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • KDub

      @Jackhoffsky: He kinda has a point though. Wasn’t there supposed to be 4 NFL athletes coming out…last year? All the speculation and then nothing happens. Makes more sense to just report it when (if?) it finally happens. Besides, it should be more about the game than the sexual orientation of the players anyway.

      Jan 23, 2014 at 6:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • horseradishhousejam

      Wait…what about Jason Collins? He was technically on contract with the Washington Wizards until July 2013 and he came out April 2013 (although the Wizards didn’t make the playoffs…so I guess that’s how it was determined that there aren’t any active players that are openly gay).

      Jan 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jackhoffsky

      @KDub: No, he doesn’t have a point.

      Look, it’s annoying, I get it. But the more it’s discussed, the more it gets “normalized,” the more likely someone can bravely come out on their own terms.

      More importantly, future players who may think that they couldn’t or shouldn’t play professional sports will be comfortable joining major teams. Maybe not as an out player, but at least with some understanding of the support that is out there. There dreams are not discredited any longer.

      Jan 23, 2014 at 7:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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