By Dave Lozo
NEWARK, N.J. -- Henrik Lundqvist is one of the most accommodating players in the NHL, always willing to answer a question at his locker long after most would walk away and a happy and willing contributor to the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity whose goal is to "make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles."
So when Patrick Burke needed assistance with the You Can Play Project, an initiative designed to teach tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community in all sports, Lundqvist was happy to be part of it.
"For me, it's obvious that everyone should have the same rights and ability to play the game, it doesn't matter race or sexual orientation," Lundqvist told NHL.com Tuesday morning. "To me, I think overall, all the hockey players I meet are a respectful group of people. I've never had an issue with it or seen people have issues with it. But when they asked me, if they wanted my help, I would."
Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, is the son of Leafs GM Brian Burke, who lost his son Brendan in a car accident in 2010. Before his death, Brendan revealed his homosexuality to his family in 2007 and went public with the information in 2009. Brendan was working toward spreading a message of tolerance and inclusion in the hockey world while working as a student manager and video assistant for the men's hockey team at Miami (Ohio) University at the time of his death.
"I've said it many times -- if a player form the Flyers came out tomorrow and I could improve our team by cutting him, great, see you later," Patrick Burke told NHL.com's Adam Kimelman on Monday. "… Conversely, if I can win a Stanley Cup with 22 gay guys, great. Let's go."
Lundqvist, along with many other high-profile hockey players, including Columbus' Rick Nash, Chicago's Duncan Keith, Toronto's Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, appeared in a PSA that aired nationally during Sunday afternoon's Bruins-Rangers game on NBC.
Lundqvist said that during his playing days both in Sweden and the NHL with the Rangers, he never knew of a teammate or player that was gay who wanted to come out. Lundqvist also said if that was the case, that person would've been accepted, whether if it was while he was playing for Frolunda or the Rangers.
But Lundqvist also said he understands the difficulty and fear that comes with being open about such a matter in a sports locker room.
"It is a tough mentality, no question," Lundqvist said. "I've never been on a team where guys come out. I don't know how guys would react. I can say from the people I know, that players are very respectful. Honestly, it wouldn't be a problem."
When asked if it would be a problem on this current Rangers team, Lundqvist gave a quick, emphatic answer.
"Absolutely not," he said.