PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — NHL on TSN analyst and former NHL defenseman Aaron Ward joined The Fan Morning Show on Thursday to talk about the Olympics and share some of what he learned about homosexuality in sports while working on his “ReOrientation” feature for TSN’s SportsCentre.
Ward told the guys that he found the series to be powerful because it really put a face to homosexuality in sports and the struggle surrounding it. He feels that progress has clearly been made since his playing days.
In his mind, part of the challenge now is that gay athletes want to feel a sense of camaraderie with their teammates. This is especially important to hockey players because of the culture of the sport. They also want to help their team win, rather than become a lightning rod for attention.
However, he feels that there’s another side to that issue that isn’t brought up quite as much.
“The flip side to all that, which is what I’ve learned, is the idea of how much effort goes into if you’re a gay athlete to hide who you are, for the media not to find out, for your teammates not to find out, for management and coaches not to find out,” Ward said. “And you can only imagine if you dedicated all that energy you spent on hiding who you are towards performance. I mean, you would have that much more of an elite athlete.”
Ward was actually planning on going to Sochi for the Olympics, but he backed out in November after some of his friends that work in the Secret Service advised him against it.
“I thought it would be great to go and they said, ‘You know what, hold off a second, let’s just talk about this because there’s an inevitability that something may happen,'” Ward said. “They said, ‘Listen, the smart play would be to understand that this is a different political environment over there with the Chechens, and there’s no better environment for them to make an impact either at the Olympics or somewhere around there than now.'”
Ward added that TSN is erring on the side of caution as well, opting to run the vast majority of their Olympic broadcasting operations out of their headquarters, rather than on-site in Sochi.
He said that the danger sours the experience a bit for the athletes going over there, noting that many of them have advised their families to stay home.
Also, Ward correctly guessed that Martin St. Louis would end up being Steven Stamkos’ replacement on Team Canada. He told the guys that General Manager Steve Yzerman’s decision would ultimately be based on need and fit, rather than on who is the best player available.
The interview can be heard here: