Brian Burke, Calgary Flames president of hockey operations, served as grand marshal of the 25th annual Calgary Pride Parade on Sunday.
"This is your chance if you live in Calgary to say that this community is important to Calgary," Burke told the Herald before the 12-block parade celebrating Calgary's LGBTQ community began. "It's an important part of what we do, and I think we'll get a great turnout and it will be an enthusiastic response -- it always is."
Burke was joined in the parade, the largest in the event's 25-year history, by three Flames -- captain Mark Giordano, center Matt Stajan and forward Mason Raymond -- as well as members of three other Calgary-based teams -- the Western Hockey League's Hitmen, the National Lacrosse League's Roughnecks and the Canadian Women's Hockey League's Inferno.
"I feel it's just a good thing for myself and the Flames organization to represent and to go out there," Raymond told the Herald on Thursday. "That's a proud community, and they should be. We're there to support them."
Burke has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community since his son Brendan, a college hockey player who came out as gay in November 2009, was killed in a car accident on Feb. 5, 2010.
"I think we've made great strides, tremendous strides, but we're nowhere close to where we need to be," Burke said. "I said this yesterday: I hope the day comes when we don't have a Pride Parade, where there's so much assimilation and acceptance that there's nothing distinctive about this community. But that's a ways off. In the meantime, we're going to celebrate LGBTQ community today."