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NHL agent sparks controversy over gay marriage

It won't come as a surprise to many that Sean Avery is at the centre of another controversy in the NHL.

Only this time, it's an agent's criticism of the New York Rangers forward's support for gay marriage that is drawing fire.

Uptown Sports agent Todd Reynolds, whose agency represents Mike Fisher, Andrew Brunette and Chris Neil, among others, caused an immediate backlash last night when he posted this message on Twitter:

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"Very sad to read Sean Avery's misguided support of same-gender 'marriage'. Legal or not, it will always be wrong."

As criticism began to come in, Reynolds tweeted twice more, adding: "To clarify. This is not hatred or bigotry towards gays. It is not intolerance in any way shape or form. I believe we are all equal... But I believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. This is my personal viewpoint. I do not hate anyone."

The comments came in response to the following public service announcement Avery did, the latest in a series by famous actors and politicians that support marriage equality in New York.

Avery was the first athlete to come forward, with his video released last week:

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I spoke briefly with Reynolds last night, confirming that he had made the comments on Twitter and he said he would be "happy to" elaborate on his stance.

An hour later, he was on TSN Radio doing just that.

"There's certainly a voice for the other side on this particular issue," Reynolds said. "I was merely responding to be the other voice. I believe in standing up for what you believe in. I'm passionate about what I believe in. And I believe in morality and I believe in right and wrong. I know many people with different view points for what is right and wrong.

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"But I'm a little disappointed in some of the response. If you oppose a viewpoint, you're immediately targeted by some people as a hater, a bigot, intolerant, homophobic and many other terms. That's obviously not the case for people who know me."

These sorts of controversies are fairly rare in the NHL, as many hockey players don't speak their mind on delicate subjects, but Avery has been widely praised for his stance this week and being the first athlete to lend his name to the cause.

(He also said he would support an openly gay teammate, something that became a topic for discussion around the league when Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke's son Brendan came out in the fall of 2009.)

Reynolds, meanwhile, is based in Burlington, Ont., and his agency isn't a major one in terms of the number of clients it has in the NHL ( roughly 10, with Fisher being the most high profile).

Before last night's tweets, Uptown Sports had a fairly small profile, but the amount of attention this story is now getting is considerable. Reynolds said he thought long and hard before making the comment, but my guess is he never imagined the level of scrutiny that would come with his opinion.

As I mentioned earlier, issues like this have traditionally never seen the light of day in the hockey world, but that appears to be changing, with social media making it very easy to comment in real time. And you have to wonder, if more players begin to talk on these issues, if fans will like what they hear.

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Many believe Reynolds' comments will cost his agency clients, but looking at his client list, I'm not so sure. This is a subject tied closely to religious beliefs, and while they're not often written about, many players in the NHL privately hold those beliefs.

Which makes one wonder: Do fans really want to know what players believe on these controversial issues? And will that affect how they look at their sporting heroes?

Or do they simply want to watch them play the game and keep their mouth shut?

There's a can of worms to be opened here, but my guess is Reynolds will be the only one to touch it in the near future. We'll see.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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