Brian Burke marches with Pride for son

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Brian Burke marches with Pride for son

Published On Sun Jul 04 2010

Amy Dempsey

Staff Reporter


Last year Brian Burke watched the Pride parade with his son Brendan. This year he?s marching for him.

?I promised my son I?d march with him, and he?s not here,? Burke says. ?He would have wanted us to do this.?

Brendan Burke died in a winter storm car crash in February. He was 21.

Three years ago, Brendan told his family he was gay. His father, Leafs general manager and longtime NHL tough guy, accepted his son?s sexuality immediately and unconditionally.

When news that Brendan was gay hit the media last November, the Burke family became pioneers for acceptance in a sport that has never had an openly gay athlete.

And on Sunday Burke took the ultimate step ? marching with parents and friends of other gays and lesbians past more than a million cheering onlookers at Toronto?s annual Pride parade.


Burke marched with PFLAG Toronto, a support group for the families and friends of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. His wife, sister and brother-in-law were by his side.

Irene Miller, president of PFLAG Toronto, said Burke?s presence will have an impact on the young people who attend the parade.

?[He?s] someone in the sports world, someone who is perceived as a macho dad,? she says. ?That is going to break down barriers, that?s going to open the door for kids all across North America to sit down and say to their dads, ?Dad I?m gay or lesbian or bi or trans.??

As the parade moved forward Burke walked slowly and kept close to his family. He waved to the crowd with one hand and placed his other hand on the small of his wife?s back, reaching out for her shoulder when they wandered more than a few steps apart.

A cop perched on a bicycle, rainbow flag tucked into his helmet, pointed Burke out to another officer. They waved and Burke returned the greeting.

?It?s got his son?s name on the back,? the second cop said as Burke marched on.


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