The most difficult conversation of Patrick Burke’s life did not come on the day his younger brother, Brendan, revealed he was gay. That was a relatively easy talk, at least for Patrick, now a scout for the Flyers. It was just after Christmas in 2007, and he was 24, five years older than Brendan. They were bringing in Patrick’s luggage from the car after a scouting trip when Brendan told him, and for Patrick it didn’t change a thing. Why would it? They were brothers. Just to make sure it wasn’t one of Brendan’s jokes, Patrick made him swear on the Stanley Cup that he was serious, the way the brothers often did, because hockey runs in the Burkes’ blood. Brendan, then the student manager of the Miami (Ohio) men’s hockey team, swore accordingly. “I love you,” Patrick told his brother. Then he told him to grab a suitcase.
No, the hardest conversation of Patrick’s life came a few days later, after he’d had time to think about the years that his brother had felt the need to keep his sexuality secret. He thought about the stereotypes he had joked about in front of Brendan and how he had casually used the word gay as an insult. They weren’t hateful comments, just unthinking ones, but Patrick could hear them now the way Brendan must have heard them then. He would later learn why Brendan had quit his high school hockey team before his senior season: As a closeted gay player, he was uncomfortable with just that type of locker room banter.
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