Brendan Burke, 21, who broke homophobic barriers in hockey, dies in accident in Indiana
Brendan Burke – the youngest son of Leaf general manager Brian Burke – has been killed in a car accident in Indiana.
"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 ...," the Leafs said in a statement Friday night.
"The family asks for privacy at this difficult time."
Brendan Burke, 21, and Mark A. Reedy, 18, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., died at the scene of a two-vehicle accident in Wayne County, Ind., around 2:50 p.m. Friday. Heavy snow was falling at the time.
Investigators said Burke was driving eastbound on U.S. Highway 35 in a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee when, according to witnesses, the vehicle slid sideways into an oncoming 1997 Ford truck driven by Michael Moreland, 24, of Lynn, Ind. Moreland was not hurt.
Wayne County is close to the Indiana-Ohio border, about 100 kilometres northwest of Cincinnati.
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 public admission of homosexuality by Brendan Burke, a former goalie working with a top-ranked university hockey program, was widely credited with nudging hockey toward overcoming its sometimes homophobic culture.
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 the hockey world.
"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.
The Burkes went public after a reporter, who had been a friend of the family, told them he planned 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. He 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 orientation after the Frozen Four tournament 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."
In a statement MLSE president and CEO Richard Peddie said: "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."