Whether he’s punching one of the Sedin twins in the face repeatedly, getting suspended three games for a dirty clip on Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki or slew footing Derick Brassard, there’s enough evidence on the ice to suggest to the casual hockey fan that Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand is not a very nice person.
But yesterday, Marchand’s actions on Twitter were enough to confound perhaps his biggest haters, especially if they have grown tired of the kind of abuse the social media site can serve up on a daily basis. While his grammar may leave a little to be desired, Marchand pulled no punches when dealing with a homophobic tweet from Twitter user @DJ_Redd_Baron, who has since deleted his account.
“This derogatory statement is offensive to so many people around the world your the kind of kid parents are ashamed of,” tweeted Marchand.
We would repost the tweet here, but warn that the language is pretty vulgar.
The question of homophobia in hockey has been on the front burner since Andrew Shaw, then of the Chicago Blackhawks, was fined and suspended for a slur against a referee in April of this year. Shaw was contrite about the incident, which was caught on tape and made the social media rounds.
“I’ll never use that word again, that’s for sure. . . . That’s not the type of guy I am,” he said at a press conference addressing the matter.
But writing in the Globe and Mail soon after the Shaw incident, Dave Bidini argued that this kind of thing is part of hockey’s culture.
“If you’re anything like me, a hockey fan, and recreational player since forever, what startled wasn’t so much what he said, but how he said it: off-handedly and repeatedly, as if it meant nothing at all,” said Bidini, who called the acceptance of such language a “cultural blight”.
One of the more vocal advocates against homophobia in hockey is Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, whose late son Brendan came out to his family while he was a noted college hockey prospect. In an interview shortly after his son’s death in an automobile accident, Burke questioned whether those players using harmful language were intending to be homophobic, but said the practice must be changed anyway.
“I haven’t been in a dressing room since the late ’70s, when I was a player,” Burke told Toronto Life. “Back then, homophobic slurs were common. Although, I’m not sure that calling your fellow player a “fag” is intentionally homophobic—it’s a habit. But it’s still offensive, and it still has to go.”
Six years later, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the NHL is ready for its first openly gay player.
“I think it’s very difficult to generalize as to why in a particular league or a particular industry somebody has or has not come out,” Bettman said. “We certainly don’t want a player to come out for our sake. It should be what’s right for him and something that he has to be comfortable with. But I think it’s our job to create a culture and an environment where a gay player knows he is safe and welcome. If and when that happens, believe me, that person will have the full support of the commissioner’s office.”
Patrick Burke, brother of the late Brendan and co-founder of the NHL’s You Can Play Project, a support group for LGBT athletes, says he has heard from NHL players who are currently closeted.