At the same time that Washington Post reporters are allegedly calling each other “cocksucker” and brawling in the newsroom, a former minor league hockey player and columnist for USA Today is calling for the end of homophobic taunts. It’s not clear what he thinks about brawling.

Justin Bourne, who writes a hockey column for USA Today and also has his own blog, offers a “real guy” column on why using anti-gay epithets in hockey is bad for the sport and why he regrets that he’s done it in the past.

In my days as a hockey player, I did nothing but contribute to hockey’s culture of homophobia and prejudice against gays. I used gay slurs more times than I’d like to admit. Six months after I left my last professional locker room, I felt a twinge of regret, followed by a full-out, stomach punch of regret. And by the time I finished the first draft of this column, I was disgusted with myself.

At the time, it seemed harmless. After all – when you think about the NHL, AHL, ECHL and more, can you call to memory a single open homosexual among them? There was nobody in my team’s dressing room to offend, right?

The lack of a homosexual presence in hockey must mean one of two things: either homosexual men don’t play the game or they don’t feel comfortable admitting it — in which case I, and my brethren, were offending some teammates with our close-mindedness, and furthering what must have been unsettled feelings of fear and general exclusion.

It’s a great column because Bourne writes in a raw, personal style. You get a sense that he doesn’t have a larger political agenda and probably isn’t terribly “politically correct,” yet he gets why anti-gay epithets in hockey are bad for the sport.

We’ve somehow made something totally irrelevant to hockey performance – sexual preference – such an issue that every gay player has been forced to conclude that their private life is something best hidden.

Hey, hockey players: not knowing doesn’t change the reality that there are gay men in the professional ranks today.

And maybe it’s not many, because we’ve driven so many away; players who didn’t want to be teased, shunned, and worse, a target for on-ice violence. Who knows how many great players hung up their skates in favor of some lesser talent, strictly to find acceptance and peace of mind.