Published On Fri Feb 05 2010
Brendan Burke – the gay son of Leaf general manager Brian Burke – has been killed in a car accident, caused at least in part by a snowstorm.
“We are saddened to report that Brendan Burke, the youngest son of Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke, succumbed to injuries he suffered in an auto accident ... in Indiana,” the Leafs said in a statement Friday night.
“The family asks for privacy at this difficult time.”
On Friday night, Richard Peddie, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, issued the following statement regarding the passing of Burke's son.
“On behalf of the entire Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment family, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Brian Burke. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Burke family during this extremely difficult time.”
Driving in heavy snow, the 21-year-old Brendan and Mark A. Reedy, 18, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., died at the scene of a two-vehicle accident on U.S. 35 in Wayne County, Ind., said Pal-Item.com, a news website serving Richmond, Ind.
Investigators said Burke was driving eastbound on U.S. 35 in a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee when, according to witnesses, the vehicle slid sideways into an oncoming 1997 Ford Truck driven by 24-year-old Michael Moreland of Lynn, Ind. Moreland was not hurt.
Wayne County is close to the Indiana-Ohio border, about 80 kilometres northwest of Cincinnati.
The public admission by Brendan Burke, a former goalie working with a top-ranked university hockey program, was widely credited with nudging hockey towards overcoming its sometimes homophobic culture.
The father-son relationship made headlines throughout Canada and the North American sporting culture in November when Brian Burke revealed to the media that his son was gay.
The younger Burke told The Star at the time he was overwhelmed with the positive feedback he’d received from the public, heralding the support from his father and hockey’s sometime homophobic culture.
“The reaction from the press and fans and everyone has been overwhelmingly positive,” Brendan Burke told thestar.com.
Brendan Burke was a student manager of the Miami (Ohio) University hockey team, and had come out to his team and his father more than two years ago. It became big news because of Brian Burke’s position once a reporter – a friend to the Burkes – said he was going to write about it.
Brendan told his father he was gay in 2007 and while Brian admitted in November he was surprised by the news, he was supportive.
“I said, ‘It won’t change anything Brendan,” Brian Burke said at the time. “It doesn’t change our view, we love you and we’re proud of you. It doesn’t change anything in my mind and it never will.’”
Brian Burke has received widespread praise for supporting his son, both within hockey and outside.
Brendan told reporters he hoped his story will give others the confidence to come forward.
“I think it’s important my story is told to people because there are a lot of gay athletes out there and gay people working in pro sports that deserve to know there are safe environments where people are supportive regardless of your sexual orientation,” he said.
Brendan Burke analyzed video and kept stats for the top-ranked Miami team. The team’s coach, Enrico Blasi, and the rest of the team first learned of Brendan’s secret after the Frozen Four last spring.
“I think having Brendan as part of our program has been a blessing,” Blasi told ESPN.com. “We are much more aware of what you say and how you say it.”
A tribute to Brendan appeared on a website for Miami fans.
As most of you know, Brendan was a part of ‘The Brotherhood,’ working with the Miami hockey program as a student manager,” it said. “No matter your point of view on things, please keep the Burke family in your thoughts.”
The Burke family has been featured here and on The Mothership several times, due to the amazing support Brendan's family displayed when he came out, and the work Brendan had just begun doing in battling homophobia in hockey. Father and son even made it into the nominations for ontd_political's most influential people 2009.
All of this is so sudden and tragic. May Brendan Rest In Peace. -_-