WATCH ABOVE: Calgary pride will celebrate their 25th anniversary on Sunday and it will be lead by an unlikely champion who is helping to bridge the gap between sports and the LGBTQ community. Global’s Jill Croteau spoke to Brian Burke.
CALGARY- Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Calgary’s 25th annual Pride Parade on Sunday and leading the way as parade marshal will be Calgary Flames’ hockey executive Brian Burke.
“I drive a pickup, I drive a Harley, I chew tobacco, I curse like a longshoreman, I like fighting, I played football, rugby and hockey, and I am the prototypical guy not to support this community in most people’s minds,” said Burke, the Calgary Flames’ President of Hockey Operations. “That’s where it falls apart… there’s guys like me who are gay.”
Many may not realize that Burke has long been a champion of inclusiveness and equality. In 2010, Burke’s son Brendan was killed in a car crash just months after coming out as gay. Also an active member of the hockey community, Brendan’s coming out broke barriers in a sport that has very few openly gay players.
“It’s a lonely thing to be a trailblazer and that’s what I told Brendan when he came out,” said Burke. “I said, ‘You’re the first in college hockey and that’s sometimes a lonely path.’”
Burke also said while the National Hockey League has no openly gay players, that doesn’t mean all players are heterosexual.
“People say there’s no gay players in the NHL. We got 750 players. Guess what? We have gay players.”
Calgary’s Pride Parade has grown substantially over the years. When it first began, only a handful of people marched and many wore disguises. But now, with tens of thousands expected to march on Sunday, Burke will be an example of how people from all kinds of backgrounds show solidarity and support for the city’s LGBTQ community.
“I think Brendan is up there somewhere, smiling, saying, ‘Thanks Dad, it’s what you should do,’” says Burke.
The parade begins at noon on Sunday. You can watch it live at globalnews.ca/Calgary or on Shaw TV.