Puck Daddy - NHL

"He's a very special case. A very special head case. It sounds to me it's very self-serving." - Denis Potvin, XM Radio's Hockey Tuesday Morning, on Sean Avery's(notes) endorsement of legalized same-sex marriage.

As you can see, everyone has his or her opinion on this issue. And some opinions are that we haven't shared enough of yours.

On Monday night, a reader named Joye emailed us to ask why the comments on the Sean Avery gay marriage endorsement story and the Uptown Sports' response to that endorsement story were turned off. Joye felt this was the wrong decision, and in fact felt it made us look homophobic:

Silencing discussion completely is a different thing, and that choice silences advocates, bigots, and loons alike. No differentiation between being a loon and being reasonable in debate. No one wins, and nothing gets worked out on what is currently the largest blog in the hockey blogosphere.

We respect that opinion, of course. Truth be told, the comments were open on the Avery blog initially and they quickly got out of hand. As they did on blogs about Brendan Burke. As they did on the Kevin Smith marries two gay Los Angeles Kings fan post.

If you read the blog, you know we try to keep politics out of it as much as possible. Sometimes, Sean Avery weighs in on gay marriage or Sarah Palin drops the first puck and there's no avoiding it. But while we aren't hesitant to cover weighty topics, the last thing we want is to have the comments on a story turn into a cesspool of crude debate, personal attacks and unmitigated vitriol. Unless it's about the shootout.

So the comments on this post will begin in the open position, and we'll see where the conversation goes. The decision to close them ultimately comes from above; if things are civil, perhaps the heat stays off.

Meanwhile, in lieu of previous comment sections, we put the call out on Twitter and Facebook for readers to offer their takes on Avery, Todd Reynolds and their feelings on same-sex marriage. The responses have been varied and thoughtful, and we'd like to present some of them here.

(Note: This is a long-ass post. If you're using a mobile device, please be aware of that.)

These are most of the comments we received but not all. We did print all of the anti-gay marriage emails we were sent. Both of them.

From Jeremy:

So I don't usually write in or comment on other people's blogs, but I felt compelled to say something after Todd Reynolds of Uptown Hockey decided to Tweet his mind on the gay marriage issue.

I'm a gay hockey fan. I don't expect any attention or sympathy because of that. I just want to be left the hell alone about my private life and enjoy the game like anyone else, you understand?

But increasingly, for better and for worse, queer issues are colliding with the sport. First Brendan Burke (I still get a lump in my stomach when I think of his story), and now Sean Avery and Todd Reynolds.

It's hard to bring myself to comment on this, it really is. I try to cover my ears whenever gay marriage gets thrown into the 24-hour news blender, and all the crazies come out of the woodwork to declare how gays are sub-human.

So let me use a hockey metaphor to soften the blow: Todd Reynolds acted like the same gutless twerp that Avery is on the ice. Yeah, that's right. Brownie points to Avery for saying something I agree with, but that doesn't mean I have to respect him as a player.

Reynolds pulled an Avery in that he went for a nerve, went for something that he knew was going to stir up [stuff]... and used his organization's brand name as a shield. Sure, I suppose he came out about it after the initial firestorm (or maybe he was outed?), but I feel that was more out of damage control than anything.

I'd rather, instead of doing his whole "I hate no one! I'm not a bigot!" song and dance, Reynolds had said, "That's right, everyone. I'm sick of these queers thinking they're good enough to marry each other."

We'll see how this all plays out, of course. The majority of people, even the ones righteously Tweeting their outrage tonight, will probably forget this dust-up ever happened. Just don't forget: some of us have to live this [stuff] every day.

From John McCarroll:

The whole fiasco with Sean Avery and Uptown Hockey is an interesting one. To put my personal opinion out there, I disagree with Todd Reynolds, but I respect his right to have his own opinions and to say what he feels.  His mistake, however, has nothing to do with his personal opinions on this subject.

Had Mr. Reynolds been "@toddreynolds", none of this would have blown up to the size that it was.  Reynolds, though, used a business-focused account which, at the time of the tweet, made no mention of Reynolds - but did mention Carlo Colaiacovo(notes), Mike Fisher(notes), Chris Neil(notes), and Cody McCormick(notes).  This has since been changed to remove Colaiacovo and add that it is Todd Reynolds tweeting. Still, this doesn't excuse what Reynolds should have learned when he got his B.Sc. in Communication Studies when playing NCAA hockey - don't use your business as a vehicle for your personal beliefs.  It's idiotic and does nothing to help his brand.  All it does it polarize those who are listening and, potentially, cause a rift with your clients.

Do I think Todd Reynolds is a bigot? Absolutely. Do I dislike him, having never met the man? You bet.  Do I think he should be unable to say the things that he wants to? Absolutely not. What I think he did, however, was make an absolutely boneheaded business decision. Luckily for him, it's Daddy's company and he's unlikely to be fired. It's unfortunate he didn't learn anything with his Communication degree - those who took the classes as more than a buffer to play college sports actually learn something about how to communicate.

From John Powell:

Un-nerved by the cavalier attitude of allowing gay marriage. Marriage is a religious institute, that celebrates life...no life can come from a gay marriage. If they want to live together, so be it...but it SHOULD NOT be honored as "marriage".

Avery is a punk. He should stay out of issues. I hate it when "celebs" get into issues - on either side - If you want to address the issues, get into politics.

From Cecillia Lopena:

Personally, I am not in favor of gay marriage.

However, given Avery's reputation, I respect him for taking a stand. Reynolds is also entitled to his opinion but he got it wrong in the way he handled himself. His first tweet sounded like a personal attack on Avery rather than stating his stand. He also should know better that this could put his clients in an awkward position.

I admire both for taking a stand but Reynolds did it in a reckless manner.

From Laura (The Active Stick):

Sean Avery took a big risk when he voiced his support for gay marriage so publicly. I think we have to remember that enough players and locker-rooms are still pretty backward, and he's likely to have a hard time when he goes back to work in the fall (not that he wasn't a target before).

I choose to look at it as a sign that our favourite sport and its athletes are evolving and becoming more open-minded and educated, especially given that we're talking about Sean 'sloppy seconds' Avery here.

On the other hand, Uptown Hockey's actions were quite nauseating. Todd Reynolds could have kept his odious opinion to himself or used a personal account, but instead chose to use the agency's official Twitter account to come out with an opinion nobody asked for on something somebody else's client did, that doesn't even necessarily represent his employees' or clients' views.

The more people in hockey act like it's okay to discriminate against LGBT people, the longer it's going to take for a gay hockey player to feel safe in his own workplace. Todd Reynolds is helping nobody, least of all his clients.

I also find it interesting that he chose to voice his opinion after Sean Avery weighed in on the issue.

Where was he when Brendan Burke came out publicly or when Brian Burke said the Toronto Maple Leafs would be accepting of gay players or staff and marched in the parade? I guess it's different when it's somebody you may need to have a business relationship with.

Via Tim:

I have a couple of different issues with Thompson's tweeting.

Firstly, If he had said what he did about any other group of people, it would be universally condemned. Imagine something to the effect of: "I don't hate black people, I just think marriage should be between two white people." or "I don't hate baseball fans, I just don't think they should be allowed to get married." How are these any different from what he said? And unfortunately, that first one is an argument that was not uncommon from those opposed to interracial marriage in the past.

On a less despicable, more stupid note, why would he use his business Twitter to espouse his own personal opinions? Regardless of who thinks what about them, I have a hard time imagining that issuing statements taking a side on controversial issues is a good way to really get more business. I'd think that most athletes would rather distance themselves from the issue in order to maximize their fanbase. Am I wrong?

The guy is an idiot and a bigot. Hiding behind the "sanctity of marriage" is a cop-out, and using your business to profess your personal beliefs is dumb no matter what your crappy opinions are. Boy that idiot gets me steamed.

From A. King:

As a current front-office employ of an NHL franchise I agree with your take on Sean Avery and his stance on marriage equality and its importance to hockey and pro sports in general.  I rarely agree with his antics on the ice and the way he plays, I whole-heartedly appreciate his stance and give him all the credit in the world for speaking his mind in a very narrow-minded industry and sport.

As someone who works in ticket sales, I recently put together our teams first LGBT Night (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender)…I'm sure you knew what LGBT means, but I was incredibly surprised at the number of people in my own office who didn't.  I myself am not gay, however I fully support gay rights and the right to marriage equality.

Via Kat Hasenauer Cornetta:

I did a piece last night looking at the demographics of NHL fans, and how they pretty strongly align with the demographics of gay marriage supporters. It's pretty statistically heavy, but the statistics are quite strong to suggest that NHL fans are more likely than other professional sports fans to be gay marriage supporters.

Thus, any hockey business that peddles anything to fans (to which player agents do, given endorsement deals and licensing agreements), is doing a giant disservice to themselves by publicly taking an anti-gay marriage stance.

From Will in Alexandria:

1) It's great to hear players like Sean Avery and Paul Bissonnette(notes) weighing in - they have a very high visibility and using it to advance a cause like equal rights for gays is a good thing in my book.

2) The agency had every right to say what it said - that doesn't make it any less misguided. I can understand a player wanting to be represented by someone who does the best job of representing their financial interests, but I would have serious reservations about my representative shooting his mouth off via his business and potentially damaging my reputation/brand through association.

3) While I'm thrilled like guys like Sopel, Avery, and Bissonnette are willing to openly support gay rights, it makes me really sad that it is huge news any time a single athlete does this. It says some pretty nasty stuff about the culture of professional sports and the omnipresent homophobia in the sports community.

From AJ Manderichio:

As we've already seen, people are lining up on either side of the Sean Avery supporting gay marriage debate. Some will go against him because of moral beliefs or because he's Sean Avery and people hate him. Others will back him up completely. And even though I'm a huge Devils fan and hate Avery will every fiber of my body, I think he deserves full credit for stepping out and supporting the cause.

For too long, we've watched athletes stifle their opinions and beliefs. They provide stock answers to almost every single question. When have you actually heard an athlete speak openly about a subject, especially a hot-button issue like same-sex marriage? Publicists and agents are so scared of the opinions ruining image that they advise them not to speak out. When an athlete does finally pipe up, it makes everyone stop and listen. Sometimes they're ridiculous and off base (Rashard Mendenhall) or simply supporting a cause, but it deviates from the social standards set for them. We expect our athletes to play hard and win games. Sharing personal opinions isn't something some want to hear.

Avery has provided his opinion time and time again. It hasn't been on a hot button social issue, unless you consider Elisha Cuthbert's choice in hockey players. But you can tell Avery thought this decision out. He understood the risks, yet chose to support the cause. That's commendable, because too often athletes spout off without knowing what they're saying. Avery's opinion is actually formed with the basis of personal experience and some knowledge of the situation. For once, an athlete spoke up and sounded educated in their opinion.

As I said before, I hate Avery the hockey player. But he impressed me with his endorsement of gay marriage. Not only did he stand up and discuss a hot button issue, he understood what he was saying. He knows some of the ins and outs of the debate and thought out his opinion. It's refreshing to see an athlete take a responsible approach to an issue and publicly make their stance known. It's tough to praise him, but Avery deserves credit for stepping up and taking a stand on the issue.

From Charlie Vidal:

Note: I am a New York Rangers fan, so these sentiments are despite my bias against Avery for sucking at hockey.

Hockey locker room cans be very insular. As "HBO 24/7" taught us, most players have the sense of humor of a 14 year old raised by sailors. Unfortunately, the insular nature of the hockey world causes players to fear the unknown, and condemn things simply because they are different.

Sean Avery is one of the more cultured players in the NHL, and it is refreshing to see a player bring his own experiences into the hockey world as a way of trying to chip away at its prejudices. I have no doubt that this is a sincere reflection of what Avery believes, based upon his experiences in the fashion world and New York's nightlife scene. I also, unfortunately, have no doubt that a fan base will use this to taunt Avery next season.

I would say it will be Capitals fans, but at least 14 year olds remember things prior to 2008.

From Chemmy:

Kudos to Avery if his sentiment is sincere. I just can't shake the feeling that this is something he's doing to continue to be controversial. His comments about "sloppy seconds" didn't scream "respectful of others", his history doesn't scream "tolerant of people who are different"; remember in LA he apparently spent a lot of time making fun of Dustin Brown's(notes) lisp despite other players in the room telling him it wasn't funny.

Bottom line? If I was a gay NHLer I sure as hell wouldn't let Sean Avery find out about it.

From Julia O'Donoghue:

It should go without saying that both Sean Avery and Todd Reynolds have a right to say whatever they want to say publicly...though Todd Reynolds' decision to make his statement through his company's twitter feed seems like a bad business move. (Having said that, I am sure some people will be throw him business because of the comments.) If he worked for me, I would fire him...not because I happen to support gay marriage and he doesn't...but because it is totally inappropriate to use his company's twitter account to express his personal opinion on this type of issue.

On Avery, I know people don't like to see professional athletes expressing their personal opinions on such issues. There is part of me that understands that sentiment. Certainly statements like this can become sideshows. But (and I recognize this is a tired argument) professional athletes are people too...and they are entitled to be politically active just like the rest of us. Avery's stance on gay marriage certainly doesn't present a "conflict of interest" with regards to his job playing ice hockey. School teachers, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and gas station clerks attend rallies and volunteer for political campaigns. Why not NHL players? (It should be noted that Avery seems to have launched this ad after the Rangers exited the playoffs...don't know if that was on purpose...but this is his personal time...He didn't launch this ad during the season...when frankly..it might have gotten much more publicity.)

Also, let's not act like the topic of sexual orientation and sports is just any old subject. I, for one, would have paid a lot less attention to Avery making a statement about abortion, gun rights or the War In Iraq. A professional athlete coming out in support of gay marriage carries more weight than his opinion on any other sort of social or political issue. Let's face it...People perceive the Republican caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives to be a friendlier place for a gay man than a professional sports team's locker room.

Though not part of the commercial, Avery's statement about standing by any gay hockey player in the locker room is the most poignant and important thing he has done to promote gay rights so far. With those words, Avery implied that there was nothing to fear about getting half naked and putting on his equipment next to another player who is gay.

The thought that a gay person might be "checking you out" in the locker room seems to be a big fear among male athletes in particular...even those who aren't, what I consider homophobic. I happen to think this whole "locker room scenario" is one of the reasons professional and semi-professional athletes have such a hard time coming out of the closet. (For that matter, I think it is also why there are concerns in the military ranks.) After all, what other job requires a person to take off his clothes in front of his coworkers on a regular basis? It is one thing to announce to the guy sitting in the office cube next to you that you are a man attracted to other men. It is quite another to make such a proclamation ...and then ask that coworker to take off his clothes in front of you day after day.

Finally, I do want to say that, in general, I am pretty proud of the way the NHL and greater hockey community has handled questions about sexuality and homophobia. We have a long way to go...but the Stanley Cup appeared in a Gay Pride Parade last year! Show me another professional sports community in North America that is so close to being comfortable with homosexuality.

Show me another sport with a superstar like Brian Burke...who not only publicly embraced his gay son on live television...but chose to honor him by becoming a gay rights advocate after his death. (Will we see someone of his stature from the NBA, NFL or MLB marching in their hometown gay pride parade?)

Again...it is a good time to be homo-loving hockey fan...The NHL may have a long way to go...but they seem to be well ahead their peers in the professional sports arena.

From BD Gallof:

Via Kevin:

I'm a 27 year old straight male.  I have no family members who are gay.  I have no close friends who are gay (a few friends on Facebook, but that doesn't really count).  I'm apathetic when it comes to religion - whatever you believe is cool, but don't pressure or try to shove your beliefs down my throat.  So, why do I care so strongly about this issue?

In the 2004 election, I was a student at Michigan State University (Home of the 3 time NCAA Ice Hockey National Champions - GO GREEN).  Election night, with the headliner being Bush vs Kerry, the under card in Michigan was the proposal to make marriage between a man and a woman in the Michigan Constitution.  A friend of mine on the dorm floor, who I would end up going to some MSU games with, was gay.  When the results of the election were final, and the proposal passed, I've never seen a guy so devastated.  Even though the people on the other side claim "We're no bigots, it's just not right", etc., he felt like he was worthless, all because people wanted to protect us from marrying a horse or some crap.  His words, not mine.  Mine would be stronger.

I had always been pro-gay rights before this election.  Basically, if you read Bourne's column that inspired Brendan Burke, that how I felt, growing up as a hockey player.  I used words I'm not proud of and will still occasionally slip and get mad at myself.  Hockey culture, man.  Playing in beer leagues and hearing this all the time, sadly, it happens.  I'm getting better, but have a long way to go for perfection.

Even though I cannot stand Sean Avery, (and as a Wings fan, glad he no longer plays for my team) I can't help but have a huge respect for him off the ice.  I know he's going to take tons of crap for it, but hopefully he has the stones to not back down.  More importantly, I hope it inspires a big name player to join him.  I read that Henrik Zetterberg(notes) has privately preached tolerance.  If he went public with his message about tolerance and respect in hockey, it would carry way more weight than that D-bag Avery.

From Eric Kollig:

I work in politics for a living. There are times to debate policy, but frankly, but in my opinion, Twitter is not the best medium to do so for a number of reasons. The character limit is obviously stifling, but it can quickly turn into a shouting match with four letter words as the currency or the comments section on Huffingtonpost.com or Redstate.com. There are just better ways and times to discuss public policy.

But seeing these misguided -- I'll define misguided in a second -- tweets simply moved me to say something. It's not just that I don't agree with this (I don't at all), but it's that this is the wrong medium and invites too much discord. It's misguided in that sense. There are times and places. Twitter is not it. Make a video like Avery did. Write an op-ed in your newspaper. Start a blog. And plus, as you've touched upon, whose bright idea was it to tweet from the agency's official Twitter feed? Yikes. Talk about putting your clients, the people who make your money, in a bad spot.

And doubling down on it by comparing same sex marriage to bestiality as he recently did? That's just Neanderthalian.

Via Julian Sanchez:

To be clear at the outset: Uptown Hockey is free to think whatever backwards thoughts they want. If they want to think Obama's Kenyan, the Earth is flat, or that denying rights to people based on their sexuality isn't intolerant that's their pregorative. Of course, we're more than free to tell them we think that their beliefs are stupid or intolerant. What I found a little distasteful is that despite the usual prattle about the sanctity of marriage, Uptown uses a Wealth Management company with a divorce specialist. Todd Reynolds' interview with Bruce Arthur was bad enough as he trotted out the well-worn persecution act with his pleas of "I'm not a bigot or intolerant! People calling me that are intolerant" but then his father Don followed that up with the paint-by-numbers trope that gay marriage would lead to marriage between humans and animals. It's like Intolerance Bingo.

Nowhere in his discussion did either Reynolds mention what would be the actual impact on marriage. Professional athletes and their proclivities do more than enough to besmirch any 'sanctity' that marriage might have today. Two men or two women marrying aren't going to cause straight couples to divorce. Looking at divorce statistics suggests that they are doing well enough at that on their own. Rather, it would open the ideal of the institution of marriage - a committed, monogamous relationship - to a group of people that don't seek to destroy it but to honour it. My God, what horror.

From Karen McCullough:

Sean Avery's on ice antics may drive us all up the wall, but I have a hell of a lot of respect for the man that he is.  He's a man who stands up for what he believes in and refuses to apologize for it and it's something I'd like to see more players have the guts to do.  We saw some guys, like the always incorrigible Paul Bissonnette, do that yesterday.  I hope that we will see more players speaking out and I hope that we see a mass exodus of players from Uptown Hockey.  As Lambert said yesterday, this is a culture that we need to change and players taking a stand is an important step in the process.

Todd Reynolds is entitled to his opinions, no matter how 'misguided' they may be.  Sharing those unpopular opinions on a corporate account which presumably exists for the purposes of representing professional athletes is not only a bad business practice, it's ethically & morally dubious.  He has dragged his clients into the middle of a controversy of his own making and that is unfair and unprofessional.  Again, I sincerely hope that all of the NHL players currently with Uptown are seeking new representation today, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is the smart thing.  How can you possibly trust someone who makes such poor decisions?

Finally, I have to say that even though this whole thing started with an expression of prejudice, the immediate, massive outpouring of support from journalists, fans, reps and players was a beautiful thing.  I have never been prouder to be part of the hockey community.


Via Lisa Ingall:

This is just "my opinion": Mike Fisher needs to find a new agent, because Todd Reynolds is AN ASS and just embarrassed his company and his clients.

The arguments being used against gay marriage today are the very same arguments that were used against interracial marriage fifty years ago.  Their time is over.  Society is growing up.  Even a plurality of Virginians (Virginians - the same people who resoundingly rejected gay marriage only five years ago!!) now believe gay marriage should be legal, according to a Washington Post article this morning.

I'm not a fan of Sean Avery and his antics, but kudos to him for speaking up for civil rights on this issue in particular, as a professional athlete. I only wish more would.  (Looking at you, Fisherwood!!) :)

From Monica McAlister

The NHL has taken so many strides within the last few years for trying to take as much homophobic rhetoric out of the game as possible. The Stanley Cup even made its first appearance in a gay rights parade thanks to Brent Sopel(notes) and the Chicago Blackhawks.

The world is changing.

The only argument I have heard for why gay marriage should not be allowed are religious reasons and at least here in the United States we have a separation of church and state so that our government can not force their religious beliefs onto the people.

Everyone has the right to their own opinion; but sometimes we need to look at the reasons we have that opinion and look outside of ourselves as to how we come across.

I respect both Sean Avery and Uptown Sports for having their own opinions; however, I feel the way Uptown went about voicing theirs was wrong. They have the right do disagree or be in what they claim is the 'silent majority' but ones rights end when they encroach upon someone else's rights; and their attack on Sean Avery did just that.

I hope that years from now, when my children are grown, they will be baffled by the thought of same sex marriage/unity being in question just as we look upon the fact that women's rights once were.

And finally, Greg McCluskey of Halifax has the last word:

My opinion on the whole ordeal: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Truer words, sir. Visit Puck Buddys and Oil On Whyte for more. Thanks for reading and please, keep it civil in the comments.

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