Hockey is for everyone and that is an understatement. Nobody should be forbidden from playing the beautiful sport, no matter what race, age, gender or sexual orientation. An aspiring National Hockey League referee, Andrea Barone, shared his poignant personal story with the New York Times, explaining how hard it has been to be a hockey referee for the past 10 years while being a homosexual man. While the league proudly presents its campaign “Hockey is for everyone”, for some time now, Barone has been trying to decide if hockey is still for him.
“First I hoped for change, it never came. Then I worked for change, it never happened. Finally I forced for change, but I was the one who had to change.”
Barone has had the support of the president of the Calgary Flames, Brian Burke, whose son Brendan revealed himself to be gay back in 2009. Burke remembered why his son, who played varsity hockey for his high school in Massachusetts, quit the team to play for a home club instead.
“He told me long after high school that it was because homophobic language made him uncomfortable,” Burke said.
Burke is not the only one supporting Barone. Former NHL player Sean Avery stepped up and has been quite vocal about stopping discrimination against homosexuals in sports. While Avery is not gay, he was yelled anti-gay slurs at him during his time in the NHL, coming from rival players and fans.
“But I’m also straight, so that certainly doesn’t hurt,” he said. “But if I had a gay teammate, which I’m pretty sure I did at some point — God, I can’t imagine what he was feeling like.
“He was probably thinking, ‘Thank God they think it’s him.’”
While Avery does not list the names of potential former gay teammates, it is a known fact that some players have different sexual orientations. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Barone will keep pushing for his dreams and his love for hockey, but knows the sport is not done hurting him. Let’s hope the support of Avery and Burke can help him push forward, and that one day, an NHL player will come out and free others from their closeted lives, that are so unfair.