NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils captain Andy Greene is adamant about spreading the message that Brendan Burke started at his college alma mater, Miami University.
Greene is honored to stand up in the fight against homophobia in sports as the Devils ambassador for the nonprofit You Can Play project this month throughout the NHL. The Devils will host their Hockey Is For Everyone Pride Night on Monday against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, RDS, SNE, NHL.TV).
Greene recalls the courage and impact Burke, the son of longtime NHL executive Brian Burke and brother of Patrick Burke, the Director of Player Safety for the NHL, showed when he came out as gay in November 2009.
Burke, who served as a student manager for the men's ice hockey program at Miami University, died in an automobile accident on Feb. 5, 2010. Part of his legacy has been the You Can Play project, which promotes inclusion for all in hockey.
"I had already left Miami University when Brendan was there, but I had so many friends from the school contact me to tell me how much of an inspiration Brendan was," Greene said. "He was just a great kid and person and we need to keep working to spread the message he started."
Video: Andy Greene on Hockey Is For Everyone night in NJ
As a two-time captain at Miami University (2004-06) and now captain of the Devils, Greene wants to be that voice in the Metropolitan area.
"If you're a good person, it doesn't matter what business you're in, how old you are, or what your sexual orientation might be," Greene said. "It's about being a good person and accepting people for who they are and not trying to create someone they're not. It's important we get that message out there because there's people who have self-doubt and it's important we let them know there's always someone here for you."
Greene, 34, signed with the Devils as an undrafted free agent on April 4, 2006, and has evolved into an all-situation player in his 11 NHL seasons. He is the second longest-tenured player on the Devils after Travis Zajac, who has been with New Jersey since the 2006-07 season.
"As captain of the Devils, I want to be that voice for the team, for the media, fans, New Jersey, in order to represent the team the best I can," Greene said. "I want to make sure I'm a bridge from the players to the coaches and management, making sure I have the pulse of the room and pulse of the team.
"But not just that, as captain, I feel responsible in making a connection with each of my teammates, making sure they feel good about themselves, feel welcome and always part of the team."
Devils rookie center Pavel Zacha, a native of the Czech Republic, is grateful Greene was so supportive when he arrived in New Jersey. Zacha was selected in the first round (No. 6) of the 2015 NHL Draft.
"He stood up for me when I first got here and didn't know what to expect," Zacha said. "He was the first one who came over and started talking to me at my locker. As a young player, when the captain comes over and talks to you and asks about you and your family, that's nice. It helped me a lot."
Veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy, signed by New Jersey to a three-year contract on July 1, 2016, respects what Greene provides on and off the ice.
"He enjoys getting to know everybody," Lovejoy said. "When I signed, the first guy who reached out to me was Andy Greene. When I arrived, he was so great in making me feel like I was part of things and he's done that with everybody. He makes everybody feel better about themselves and help perform better."