Providence Bruins embrace 'You Can Play' project


Providence Bruins embrace 'You Can Play' project

It started as an earnest idea by a couple of pro hockey players with a personal connection to Brendan Burke, and was fully realized Sunday following the Providence Bruins 3-2 shootout loss to the Worcester Sharks.

Rather than sulking about plays not made in the just-completed game, members of the P-Bruins roster discussed something a little more important than wins and losses. They invited You Can Play project co-founder and president Patrick Burke to speak with the dressing room full of Providence players at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The intent: to pass on the important message thats become a paramount part of Patricks life since younger brother Brendan passed in a tragic motor vehicle accident two years ago.

Burke and his father, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, have made it part of their lifes work to break down the walls of homophobia in professional sports in memory of Brendan.

"I say 'Look guys, I dont need your time, I dont need your money, I dont need you to march in parades and I dont need you to be best friends with the gay community in Providence.' Although all of those things would be a great help if you wanted to do them," said Burke. "But all we need is for you to eliminate 5 or 10 words from your vocabulary and were 90 percent of the way to where I want to be.

"We try to emphasize to the guys that youre going to win more hockey games, youre going to be a better teammate and its not that hard."

The Burke message was nothing flashy or fancy. Its simply reality: Chances are these hockey players will have a gay teammate over the next decade if they havent already. There are easy ways for athletes to make sure they contribute to an environment in which gay teammates feel comfortable playing. So each player signs a pledge that theyre willing to "eliminate homophobic slurs from the locker room.''

The pledge gives the guys an easy way to know what theyre supporting, and it gives them something to live up to, said Burke. Its great to go and lecture guys on any issue, but now theyre putting their name behind it. Theyre signing their name behind it and putting their face on a video. We hope that will encourage them to back up their words with actions.

If you ask the Providence guys I was in and out of there in five minutes yesterday, and the message is simple: Homophobic slurs have an effect on gay players. We all want to be the type of teammates that show other teammates respect. These guys are in a great position where they can do a lot of good. All they need to do is eliminate five or 10 words from their vocabulary. If these guys play hockey for 10 years theyre going to have a gay teammate. Just going by mathematics, there are numerous closeted hockey players playing right now.

Burkes youngest son came out in 2009 while a student manager of the Miami University RedHawks mens hockey team, and was just scratching the surface of his impact upon the sporting world and gay community when his life was taken far too soon.

Bruins center Christian Hanson was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs when the car accident shook the Leafs franchise in 2010, and knows just important the cause is to the Burke family.

It was my rookie year in Toronto when Brendan passed, and it was tough for everybody. I cant even imagine what the Burke family was going through, said Hanson. Brian has played an instrumental part in my hockey career after signing me in Toronto, and Id known Brendan for years going to back to when I played at Notre Dame. When I heard about You Can Play this summer I called Patrick and told him Im willing to help in any way.

P-Bruins forward Carter Camper was a player on the Miami RedHawks teams during Burkes tenure as student manager, and counted Brendan as a good friend.

Brendan was basically a teammate. He was the team manager, but he would come out with us to games. He would eat with us on Sundays and he was always around the rink, said Camper. The best way I could describe him is that when he walked into a room everybody was happy, and everybody was listening to everything he had to say.

Hed come out to dinner with all of the families around, and my parents would always tell me what a nice kid they thought he was. He really made a difference even before he came out to us. He was just a special person.

So when players heard the Toronto Marlies had invited Patrick to speak to the team before agreeing to pledge removal of homophobic slurs from their dressing room, it made sense the P-Bruins stepped in as the second AHL team to endorse You Can Play.

Christian and I talked about it obviously, and with me being from Miami I was very familiar with the Burke family, said Camper. I think its a great cause and obviously were supporting it. Patrick talked about eliminating those homophobic slur words from our vocabulary. Im sure people dont use those words with hurtful intentions, but when Brendan passed away we made a conscious effort as a team to never use those words again.

Im proud to say Ive only said those words once or twice since he passed, and its a lot easier to eliminate them than you might think. A lot of people say theyre going to continue something when tragedy strikes like that, but I think Patrick has made it even bigger and more influential than even Brendan could have imagined.

Burke is pushing the You Can Play project while scouting for the Philadelphia Flyers and finishing up law school in Boston, so his never-ending energy level is something of a minor miracle. Its also an inspirational show of love in his brothers memory.

But the results already seen by You Can Play which has been widely adopted in the college hockey, AHL and NHL ranks among others is something that also invigorates him.

We had a lot of faith in the hockey community and we knew theyd get on board. But we didnt know to what extent. If you look at it now everything that I did yesterday was because of Christian Hanson and Carter Camper, said Burke. They asked me to come in. Andy Miele is running the same thing in Portland and doing a video. Mike McKenna, the goalie in Peoria, said the same thing I want to make a video with my team. What do we do?

"So were not even driving the bus anymore. The athletes are driving the bus and saying 'this is something thats important to us. This is something that is important to us. It has meaning and value to our locker room and teammates, and its something we want to take control of." "

Plans are in the works to develop similar outreach programs with the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball, and theres expected to be an imminent announcement of a partnership with the NCAA to educate college athletes on creating an open environment for everybody.

We have our second MLS video going up today. We could do individual stuff with all of the other sports tomorrow if we wanted to. But were looking for long-term lasting relationships with the other leagues like the one I have with the NHL and AHL, said Burke. We could do something with NFL and NBA players tomorrow, but we want to put something together thats bigger than a couple of videos.

Well keep doing videos and we have even more things coming beyond videos as we expand in the next few months. More than just raising awareness, were going to give people real, practical solutions on how we can fix this problem.

Just as Zdeno Chara was among the first NHL players to embrace the You Can Play concept when he filmed a commercial during last years All-Star weekend in Ottawa, its encouraging to see how forward-thinking the Bruins organization was by inviting Burke to Providence.

Now its up to the rest of the teams to follow the trail blazed by organizations like Toronto and Boston. The fact its happening at all means Brendan Burkes message is as strong and as powerful as its ever been.

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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Curran: End result vs. Steelers justifies Patriots 'bend but don't break' defense

Curran: End result vs. Steelers justifies Patriots 'bend but don't break' defense

PITTSBURGH – “This game isn’t about numbers,” said Rob Ninkovich. “Everyone thinks about sacks and all these things as huge markers for success but there are a lot of teams with a lot of sacks that aren’t winning. I’ll take the wins over the sacks any day.”

It was another win on Sunday for the Patriots – 27-16 over the Steelers in Pittsburgh. There were no sacks. There was no chaos, no befuddled young backup quarterback flushed and addled by a complex defense. In fact, Landry Jones looked real comfortable back there in throwing for 281 yards and a touchdown.

Like Carson Palmer lighting it up late or Ryan Tannehill throwing for 387 or Tyrod Taylor converting third downs with impunity, Jones on Sunday continued a trend of quarterbacks looking pretty good against a very talented defense that – nonetheless – walked away with a comfortable win.


The Patriots have allowed 107 points – the fewest in the AFC and fewer than all but three teams in the NFC and all three of those have played one fewer game.

But it’s hard to escape the feeling that they’re playing it too close to the bone.

Except, maybe, Bill Belichick who once said quite plainly, “Stats are for losers.”

Not all stats though. We hear it often – three stats matter more than the rest: red zone defense, turnovers and third-down efficiency.

And if you look at those numbers for the Patriots defense, they were all fairly gaudy.

Pittsburgh was in the Patriots’ red zone four times. They came away with 10 points. They were inside the Patriots’ 40 six times and finished with 16.

The Patriots yield yards but not points. And that’s by design, said Ninkovich.

“In an offense like that with a bunch of very explosive players, one slant can turn into a touchdown so you have to be really careful in your coverages,” said the veteran defensive end. "There’s not just one go-to guy. They got a running back that can catch it out of the backfield and make plays (Le’Veon Bell). (Antonio Brown) can catch it anywhere on the field and make plays. You just have to make sure with a guy like (Landry Jones) to have him make the throws. It’s hard in this league to be perfect. So to have him sit back there and try to make all the throws was what we chose and the secondary did a great job.”

The Patriots rushed three or four most of the game. When they ran a corner blitz with Malcolm Butler, he didn’t get home and Jones hit Bell for a decent gain.  

“You can’t just pin your ears back because that’s when you get in trouble,” Ninkovich explained. “And then next week, there’s a guy (Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor) who can move in the pocket so that’s another whole type of defense you run with a mobile quarterback.”

Last season’s game at Buffalo is a good example of why Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia don’t like the feeding frenzy approach to defense. New England had the game in hand, 37-13 entering the fourth. And then, with everyone wanting to get in on the rush, Buffalo scored 19 in the fourth quarter with Taylor breaking contain and making plays with his feet.

After that game (and really, for most of Belichick’s tenure here), the Patriots were more interested in seeing what a quarterback could do in terms of stringing plays together.

The Patriots like their chances in that realm.

“It’s 1-on-1 matchups, guys making plays on third down and in the red area,” said safety Devin McCourty. “Guys are gonna make great catches every once in a while. Guys are gonna make great throws. You gotta live with that. They’re in the NFL too. But if we’re consistent with how we’re playing we’ll make enough plays to do well.”

They certainly do that.  As unpleasant as it seemed when the Steelers made it 14-13 (and had skewered themselves in the first half with a missed field goal, an end zone pick and a hold that wiped out a touchdown), the Patriots walked out with another double-digit win.

It felt like the butt-kicking could have been more thorough, though.

How does McCourty think Bill Belichick, film critic, will view the performance?

“Honestly, you never know,” McCourty said. “There’s times we leave the field feeling like we played terrible and (Belichick says), ‘You fix a couple things and we’ll be all right.’ And there’s times where you feel like you played well and we go in there and get ripped.

“The things Bill focuses on and what he expects out of our defense is what he (keys on) every week,” McCourty stressed. “No matter what the media says, no matter what the stats say. If we don’t give up any points but there’s three third downs where we give up the wrong leverage, that’s a problem. Monday afternoon (after film breakdown) is always a mystery.”

The results for the Patriots haven’t been (with the exception of the opener) cliffhangers. But the feeling persists that one of these weeks, this defense that plays a style daring the opposing quarterback to not shoot himself in the foot will go up against a quarterback that actually doesn’t.