Fu­neral mass held for Bren­dan Burke, son of Toronto Maple Leafs GM

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

CAN­TON, Mass. (AP) — Bren­dan Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs gen­eral man­ager Brian Burke and an ad­vo­cate for gay rights, was re­mem­bered Tues­day for his com­pas­sion and courage, four days af­ter his death in a car crash on a snowy In­di­ana road.

“From birth, he had an un­shak­able faith in the gen­uine good that re­sides in all peo­ple,” his brother Pa­trick said at a fu­neral mass. “Along with that faith is hope, hope that he could bring that good out from in­side of peo­ple and into the world by be­ing open, car­ing and kind to every­one he met.”

Bren­dan Burke was a goalie at Xave­rian Broth­ers High School in nearby Westwood but de­cided not to play as a se­nior be­cause the locker room at­mos­phere was be­com­ing harder to deal with, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle on ESPN.com in De­cem­ber.

That ar­ti­cle re­lated how he told his fa­ther on Dec. 30, 2007, that he was gay.

“I had a mil­lion good rea­sons to love and ad­mire Bren­dan,” Brian Burke said in the story. “This news didn’t al­ter any of them.”

Bren­dan, 21, was in the sec­ond se­mes­ter of his se­nior year at Mi­ami Uni­ver­sity in Ohio, where he was stu­dent man­ager of the hockey team. He died Fri­day when his car slid side­ways into the path of an­other ve­hi­cle. His friend, Mark Reedy, 18, of Bloom­field Hills, Mich., also died in the ac­ci­dent.

Many mourn­ers stood for the mass in­side the packed St. John The Evan­ge­list Church. Among those who at­tended were staff and play­ers from Mi­ami, wear­ing their red jer­seys with white let­ters and num­bers, and staff and play­ers from the Maple Leafs. Also there was NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman, Bos­ton Bru­ins gen­eral man­ager Peter Chiarelli, New Jer­sey Devils pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager Lou Lamor­iello, Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers coach Pat Quinn and Bos­ton Red Sox gen­eral man­ager Theo Ep­stein.

Bren­dan “was strong and un­yield­ing in his con­vic­tions but soft, sweet and gen­tle in their ap­pli­ca­tion,” Pa­trick Burke, a scout for the Philadel­phia Fly­ers, told those in at­ten­dance. “He was the face of a move­ment and will al­ways be the soul of a fam­ily. To many of us, Bren­dan’s world was a dream world. Bren­dan had the courage to tran­scend cyn­i­cism and fear and live for 21 glo­ri­ous years in that dream.”

Af­ter the mass, Brian Burke stood out­side on a sunny, chilly day and shook hands with those leav­ing the church.

Brian Burke also is gen­eral man­ager of this year’s U.S. Olympic hockey team.

“I don’t think there are any words or ex­pres­sions that can re­ally say what ev­ery­body feels to­day,” Lamor­iello said. “It’s just tremendous to see the out­pour­ing of care and the way ev­ery­body just comes to­gether, but it’s a sad day.”

Sev­eral of Bren­dan’s friends from ele­men­tary school in Can­ton at­tended the mass. Some of them spent time with Bren­dan last month dur­ing the win­ter break from col­lege.

“He was a very good friend to all of us, al­ways try­ing to make us laugh, al­ways put us first and he was al­ways there for us when we needed it,” said Steve Ivanoski, 20, who praised Bren­dan’s gay ad­vo­cacy. “He was get­ting emails. He was help­ing any­one out who had any prob­lem with it. He was al­ways out­spo­ken. He al­ways wanted to get his point across and he al­ways did get his point across.”

Bren­dan spent last sum­mer as an in­tern for U.S. Rep. William De­lahunt, a Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat.

For Pa­trick Burke, the lessons of his brother’s life live on.

“His vi­sion of the world was a spark that lit a fire of hope in so many peo­ple,” he said. “That fire has not been ex­tin­guished by his pass­ing. His mem­ory will fan the flame of courage in all of us, in­spir­ing all of us to be a lit­tle kinder, a lit­tle stronger, a lit­tle bet­ter, a lit­tle more like Bren­dan.

“Through all of us, his hope still lives and his dream will never die.”

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