What will be Brian Burke’s lasting legacy in Toronto?
Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke speaks at a year end press briefing in Toronto on Tuesday April 12, 2011. (Chris Young / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Thursday, January 10, 2013 12:23PM EST
As rumours continue to swirl over why Brian Burke was fired from his job as Maple Leafs GM just days before the team was expected to return to post-lockout action, his son has assured fans at least one aspect of his legacy will remain intact.
In a series of tweets posted online in the hours after news of Burke's firing broke Wednesday, Patrick Burke told his nearly 9,000 Twitter followers that the You Can Play Project established in March 2012 will carry on.
"I have spoken with MLSE execs. Nothing changes regarding YCP. I fully intend to be involved in Toronto Pride as well," Burke tweeted, later adding: "Our family loves the city of Toronto and its LGBT community and absolutely nothing about this will change our commitment to those in need."
Patrick Burke co-founded the group as a tribute to his brother Brendan, who came out as gay in late 2009.
When Brendan went public with his sexual identity, he vowed to raise awareness about the effects of homophobia in sport. His efforts were cut short, however, when he died in a car crash just a few months later.
Since the You Can Play Project got going last year, it garnered the support of the NHL and a long list of players behind it's slogan "If you can play, you can play."
Last November, the AHL’s Toronto Marlies became the first full team to endorse a You Can Play pledge committing them to supporting all players, coaches and even fans, regardless of their sexual orientation.
"Everyone contributes. Everyone is valued. Everyone matters," were among the phrases recited and signed by the entire Marlies organization.
The Peoria Rivermen followed suit on Wednesday, the same day Burke's firing was announced, becoming the second AHL team to sign a You Can Play pledge.
And so, as many hockey fans cheer the end of Burke’s tenure as Leafs' president and GM -- during which time his critics relish pointing out he failed to secure the team a star goaltender, or a berth in the playoffs -- his son Patrick was eager to highlight the positive aspects of his legacy.
"I have said what our family wanted to say on this. Only one more point of pride I will make before I drop the subject entirely," he tweeted.
"Brian Burke did more charity/community work than any GM in NHL history. And the Burke family will always, always be proud of that fact."
Brian Burke's high-profile endorsements of advocacy organizations includes:
- Marching in Toronto's Pride Parades, first with son Brendan in 2009, and in his honour since the fatal car crash in 2010
- Was among 53 people who spent a chilly night sleeping outside, in support of Covenant House and its work with homeless youth
- Joined the group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) as a member and volunteer following Brendan's death; given their "Ally Award" in 2012
- Public supporter of the Canadian Safe School Network's efforts to reduce bullying, youth violence and crime in schools
Burke's association with the Leafs is not entirely over either. In announcing the end of his career as the team's GM and president, it announced he would be staying on as a "senior adviser."
What do you think? Will Brian Burke's enduring legacy in Toronto be his work with the Leafs or his advocacy?