Hockey fans unfamiliar with Brian Burke’s involvement in Covenant House might have walked by the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager sleeping on the street and thought the NHL lockout had put him there.
In fact, Burke joined 51 other Toronto executives in taking to the streets to raise awareness about youth homelessness in the Canadian city, according to the Yahoo! Puck Daddy blog.
Burke told 680 News in Toronto that he and other community leaders, including city Police Chief Bill Blair, were given only cardboard and a sleeping bag for their overnight stay in the parking lot of the Covenant House Youth Center.
“For people who don’t know, Covenant House provides housing, counseling, and other services for homeless youth in Toronto,” Burke told NHL.com. “They do an absolutely outstanding job, and I think it’s a group of people who are at risk, and if they just had a little bit of help can break the cycle of poverty and homelessness … and reclaim their lives.”
Burke and his fellow executives met with at-risk youth and ate what they would consume as a part of their normal diet. Still, they were afforded a certain guaranteed level of security that poverty-stricken youth can’t rely on, according to 680 News.
“That's not what these kids face,” Burke said. “A good dose of reality in a small amount. I'm happy to do it.”
The Maple Leafs GM has long been involved in charity programs and is one of the most outspoken, forward-thinking NHL officials. Although he has sometimes been a polarizing figure, Burke has spearheaded the You Can Play Project that aims for acceptance of gay players in sports, including the NHL.
His son Brendan, who was openly gay and involved in hockey, was killed in a car accident in 2010. Since then, Burke has lobbied the league to levy punishment on players who utter gay slurs on the ice and has been a visible participant in Toronto gay-pride parades.
The Covenant House event helped raise $520,000 for the organization, one that hits close to home for the NHL executive.
“My particular interest is a significant percentage of that community are members of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community, which is where I do a lot of my work because of my late son.”