Sunday, 8 May 2011

Controversial Avery Once More

I've always been fascinated with Sean Avery's off-ice routines. He seems like he can be a very low-key member of society while contributing to various magazines, yet he also seems to be able to strike an interesting fashion style. Honestly, this dichotomy in Avery's style off the ice compared to how he plays on the ice is what makes him so interesting because he is highly unpredictable. Which brings us to today where Sean Avery, New York Ranger agitator, threw his support behind New Yorkers for Marriage Equality, a group that works to help America's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons achieve equality in all facets of their lives. I'm not here to pass judgment on Avery for his supporting of this group. Rather, I'm here to praise Avery for standing up for what he believes in, and what ultimately could be good for hockey players and hockey fans in general.

There have always been whispers of some hockey players being gay amongst fans, but the players stand behind the fact that their sport is one of macho, uber-straight men's men who crave the violent side of the game. Sure, that might be hyperbolic in its statement, but the fact remains that there have been no openly gay men that have played in the NHL proves one thing: in order to play this game, you can't come out of the closet.

If we go back to February 3, 2011, Avery made a few statements regarding player alongside or against an openly gay player, and they were quite encouraging to hear. Said Avery to the Toronto Sun's Chris Stevenson,

But he said if there's a gay hockey player out there seeking support to come out, the player need only pick up the phone.

Avery said he's willing to support a player who might feel intimidated by the decision to openly declare his sexual orientation.

"If there's a kid in Canada or wherever, who is playing and really loves the game and wants to keep playing but he's worried about coming out, I'd tell him to pick up the phone and call (NHLPA executive director) Donald Fehr and tell him to book me a (plane) ticket.

"I'll stand beside him in the dressing room while he tells his teammates he is gay. Maybe if Sean Avery is there, they would have less of a problem with it."
Honestly, I am impressed with this stance from Sean Avery. It says a lot about his character, his convictions, and his integrity when he makes a statement like he did above. It sends a message to the world when one of the guys who is paid to be tough shows that he still has a connection to the fans.

Avery's decision to support New Yorkers for Marriage Equality was an easy one for him, adding that "it would be no big deal after living in popular gay communities such as West Hollywood in California, when he played for the Los Angeles Kings, and now Chelsea in New York". Again, hockey is better off for Avery's stance on this.

I cannot deny that there are gay hockey players out there. It would be akin to denying that water is wet and the sun rises in the east. I know of at least one local female hockey player who prefers the company of women to men, and I'm very supportive of her in all aspects of her life. I also have gay friends, both men and women, who are from a variety of walks of lives: bankers, website designers, and coffee shop employees to name but a few. I see no reason why they can't pursue what they love to do, and if that's a career in hockey, I'm all for it.

One of the biggest supporters of this movement has been and will continue to be Brian Burke. As you may well remember, Burke was 100% supportive when his son, Brendan, informed his family and the world that he was a gay man. Brendan was working as a student manager for the men's hockey team at Miami University of Ohio where he was learning the trade in which his father had reached the pinnacle. Brian Burke has been the gruff and tough voice of hockey for years, from his hard-nosed playing days right up to management days with the Maple Leafs. But Brendan always had his biggest fan in the toughest man he knew: his dad.
"I had a million good reasons to love and admire Brendan. This news didn't alter any of them.

"I would prefer Brendan hadn't decided to discuss this issue in this very public manner. There will be a great deal of reaction, and I fear a large portion will be negative. But this takes guts, and I admire Brendan greatly, and happily march arm in arm with him on this.

"There are gay men in professional hockey. We would be fools to think otherwise. And it's sad that they feel the need to conceal this. I understand why they do so, however.

"Can a gay man advance in professional hockey? He can if he works for the Toronto Maple Leafs! Or for Miami University Hockey. God bless Rico Blasi! And I am certain these two organizations are not alone here.

"I wish this burden would fall on someone else's shoulders, not Brendan's. Pioneers are often misunderstood and mistrusted. But since he wishes to blaze this trail, I stand beside him with an axe! I simply could not be more proud of Brendan than I am, and I love him as much as I admire him."
Back to Avery, his stance is a player's stance in the NHL. For one shining moment, Avery opened his mouth and said something that can bring the entire hockey world - the entire human race, for that matter - closer together. For me, that's what being a player of prominence is about: using your celebrity to do good. Sean Avery did very good with his comments and he showed it by throwing his support being one of America's best organizations that deals not just with the issues facing the LGBT community, but one that deals with a human problem - stereotypes and bigotry.

I commend and celebrate Sean Avery for taking a stance on this issue, and becoming the recognized face of how Americans, and therefore New Yorkers, really feel about gay marriage. For every LGBT website, such as, that features Avery as a sex symbol, you can now elevate that status to "supporter". And you can count me in as one blogger who supports not only Sean Avery on this stance, but as one blogger who stands beside you as someone who wants equality for all people regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation.

For a very long time as a player myself, I have heard the testosterone-driven insults from opposing players such as "you're gay" or "fag". They were much more prevalent as a youngster and a teenager than now, but you still hear it once in a while from people who I thought were adults. Honestly, it doesn't bother me one bit, but I really think that using "gay" or "fag" as an insult is "trés passé". Does it really matter to you, readers, if a player is gay and scoring goals for your team? Would it matter if he or she were black? How about Jewish?

If your answers are "yes" to any of those questions, I really don't want you as a player on my team or as a fan of the team for which I cheer. Your closed-minded view on the world really is a detriment to the team in both cases. Honestly, does it matter who is sleeping with who as long as the team is successful?

"The reaction from fans in visiting arenas would be tough," Avery said in regards to a player coming out as gay, "but I don't think it would be that big a deal. I get booed no matter where I go."

Count me as one of the people who will cheer for you, Mr. Avery, and I'd like to thank you for being honest and open about this topic. I didn't like some of your politics before, but I like your conviction on this one.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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