Hockey players can gain our attention in a lot of ways. Some are talented scorers while some bring the high energy and toughness needed to protect their teammates. Some players are known for sacrificing their bodies to block shots whether they are defenseman or goaltenders. However other players still gain recognition for what they do off the ice. Andy Miele, currently in his second year in the Phoenix Coyotes organization, is a player that has not only impressed with his talents on the ice, but has been great off the ice as well.
At just 24 years old, Miele is already a member of the advisory board for a major social activism campaign called the You Can Play Project. You Can Play aims to get rid of homophobia in sports and was founded in memory of Brendan Burke who was the son of Brian Burke, the former GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brendan Burke came out as being an openly gay athlete in 2009 and passes away at only 21 as a result of a car crash in February of 2010. His father and his brother, Patrick Burke, made it their mission to carry on Brendan’s story. Brendan had been the student manager for the Miami University RedHawks hockey team, where Miele played. That connection was part of the reason that Miele became one of two founding donors to You Can Play along with teammate Tommy Wingels, who now plays with the San Jose Sharks.
“Just knowing Brendan Burke from him working with our team at Miami University,” Miele said when asked why he got involved. “Were he still alive, he would be spreading the message. It’s a chance to carry on his legend and it’s a huge honor to be a part of it.”
Although there is still a lot of opposition, the project is making great strides. Some people are unused to the message and are not always comfortable with accepting a new thought process. Miele has been lucky enough to encounter strong support for You Can Play from his own teammates in Portland, AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes. Just this past week, the Portland Pirates players and front office staff signed the You Can Play pledge. The team also made their own video in support.
“We have a good group of guys that offered to put their voices in the video and support it. A couple of us on the team did all the video taking and set everything up. One of the guys did the editing,” Miele said about putting together the video with his teammates. “It might not be as good as the other ones. It’s not professionally done but it comes from the heart.”
Not only is Miele making a name for himself off the ice, he is a talented player as well. Miele took the path of going to college instead of playing in Canada in one of the major junior leagues. It is a decision that he did not think twice about and values his time to develop through those four years of college. Not only does he say that the four years in college helped his game, but he also credits that time for helping him grow as a person. In the end, he would probably say it paid off as he won the Hobey Baker following his final season.
“I couldn’t see myself having been at a better place. Between the coaching staff and what they’ve built there, called the ‘Brotherhood’,” Miele said about being at Miami University. “The school, the education, the fan base. It was all perfect.”
Now, Miele is in his second professional season and has spent most of his time in the AHL with the Portland Pirates. He ended his rookie season leading the team in points and assists and also had the honor of being named to the AHL All-Star Classic roster. Although Miele has dressed for 8 games so far with Phoenix, 7 being last season and 1 so far this season, he is still searching for that first NHL point. If Miele’s success so far between college and the AHL is an indication, that first point will come eventually.
See the Portland Pirates in their pledge to the You Can Play Project here: Could not parse XML from YouTube