Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw uttered one of the most vile anti-gay slurs on national television in the middle of an NHL playoff game. He went through the dance of suspension and apology that followed, like so many before him.
But he also listened. Today, Shaw says he’s committed to eradicating the casual homophobia that invades the locker room.
“As we all grow and learn, you meet people and have friends and family in this community,” Shaw told The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “They help you learn what they are going through in their daily lives and you realize that words can hurt. And they cut deep. Since then I have changed. I made sure to remove it from my vocabulary .
Lazerus has written an interesting feature article about the changing culture of the NHL, in which overt homophobia is less prevalent than it once was, players and coaches say.
Shaw is one of those players. During the 2016 playoffs, the now-retired striker shouted “fucking fagot” from the penalty area. Shaw then expressed remorse, saying he was “truly sorry” for his “insensitive remarks”.
The NHL suspended him for one game.
Looking back, Shaw says he’s “grateful” for the experience. It opened his eyes to the evil of his words.
“I grew up in a small town, I played with the same guys every year,” Shaw said. “That word was used from my childhood through to playing in the OHL and playing in the NHL.”
The NHL’s progress on LGBTQ issues is evident. All 32 teams have held some sort of Pride or Inclusion Night, and many are upping the ante. The Montreal Canadiens recently auctioned off 32 player-signed Pride jerseys for charity, and the Vancouver Canucks created arguably the best Pride jerseys of all time.
The landscape is becoming more welcoming to LGBTQ gamers, thanks in large part to the influx of younger gamers and their more inclusive attitudes. We’ve published many coming-out stories of young hockey players over the past few years.
But there is still work to be done. A veteran Eastern Conference player says Lazerus’ gay slurs are still heard on the ice, albeit less frequently. The AHL recently suspended a player for eight games for homophobic comments.
Last year, former Blackhawks defenseman Kyle Beach told the harrowing story of how his teammates allegedly bullied him after he was sexually assaulted by the team’s video coach in 2010.
Shaw wasn’t on that Blackhawks team — he was drafted the following year. But if he encountered a similar situation now, I hope he would talk.