Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke speaks about players lending support to You Can Play Project for gay athletes

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By now hockey fans are familiar with the story of Brendan Burke, son of Leafs GM Brian Burke. Brendan was the first man in hockey to come out to his team as a homosexual while working as a coach at Miami University. The acceptance shown to him by his team and his family was a heartwarming story for all who have fears of doing the same and where the You Can Play Project gets its starting point.

You Can Play is getting support from a number of NHL players and showing their support through a PSA you’ll see later today on NBC’s game of the week between the Bruins and Rangers. Patrick Burke is a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and one of the co-founders of You Can Play and Burke tells PHT that the aim of the project is to make the locker rooms and arenas safe for gay athletes.

“We’re trying to raise awareness of the issues LGBT athletes face. I don’t think enough people are aware just how hard a locker room can be on gay athletes of all ages,” Burke says.

Filming a PSA that features Patrick and his father Brian along with 12 NHL stars helps serve notice that the league is serious about breaking down the barriers for those that want to enjoy sports. Featured in the spot are Rick Nash, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf, Corey Perry, Andy Greene, Duncan Keith, Daniel Alfredsson, Brian Boyle, and Henrik Lundqvist. That’s a lot of fire power and there’s more help on the way.

“We’ve got 35 guys committed to the filming so far with 30 guys I believe now have been filmed,” Burke says. “We’re hoping that as other guys see the PSAs and see what we’re all about that more and more of them will find ways to get involved to show their support.”

It won’t be easy at the start, and we’ve seen instances this season where the kind of language they’re hoping to eliminate from locker rooms is out there, but with what the You Can Play Project is trying to do, Burke says their aim is to teach and not vilify.

“We’re about education. We’re not about anything else. We’re not about punishment or vilifying or making enemies. We’re just here to show people what the issues are and how best to combat them,” Burke says.

So it’s like teaching through kindness then?

“Yeah… Well, we’re still the Burkes so we’ll drop the gloves if we have to.”

Here’s video of the PSA you’ll see during this afternoon’s tilt between the Rangers and Bruins. You can read up more on the You Can Play Project at their website or follow them on Twitter.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.