In June, the joint NHL and NHL Players’ Association initiative “Hockey Is For Everyone” celebrates Pride Month. All 32 NHL clubs, alumni and current players will participate in Pride events, including parades, across North America. As part of Pride Month, NHL.com will be sharing stories about the LGBTQI+ hockey community. Today, a report from LNH.com writer Guillaume Lepage, who has covered league activity over the past five years, including the recent Western Conference Finals, the Montreal Canadiens, and prospects ahead of the annual NHL draft.
ten years. It took me 10 years to overcome my fears and anxieties and to come to the conclusion that I can continue to do my job as a journalist in the hockey world without having to hide behind a mask, just by being myself. Openly homosexual.
Throughout this decade-long personal journey and acceptance process, I’ve also constantly asked myself if the person I really am can go through all the necessary steps to finally find my feet in such an environment, which is notoriously somewhat conservative.
Although I am now well established in my field, I kept asking myself the same question. Until last summer.
Everything changed on July 19, 2021 – the day Luke Prokop was the first active player signed to an NHL team to come out as gay. Seeing all the support and positive reactions from all corners of the hockey industry, I decided the time had come. I was ready and the last obstacle holding me back had just fallen.
Two days later I came out to my family, friends and some colleagues. It was an emotionally draining process, but it had only positive effects. At the age of 30 I have never been happier, more fulfilled and closer to my fellow human beings than in the last year.
I have nothing to hide anymore. I no longer walk on eggshells or adapt what I want to say to a specific context.
In that way, my story is no different than anyone who’s come out at some point in their life or doesn’t feel ready for it. What sets this apart from the rest is the fact that it will forever be associated with hockey, for better or for worse.
I love my sport and I love my job. I know there’s still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but the fact that more and more members of the hockey community are feeling comfortable sharing their stories is an encouraging sign of progress. But it can’t stop there.
I am writing in the hope that this will be another step forward. The goal isn’t to put myself in the spotlight – it really isn’t in my nature – but to add my voice to the few who have had the courage to show themselves in the hockey world.
Some may say that this is my private life and that I should only share it with my inner circle. But representation counts. When you see someone with a similar path that you want to thrive on a personal and professional level, you can say, “Why not me?”
It is important. Even more so since the number of models of sexual and gender diversity in the hockey community and in the sports media industry in general is not very high. Far from it. Luke Prokop was my role model and I just hope my story can help at least one person feel better. To accept themselves as they are.
If I had read such a testimony during my studies, I might have thought of working my way through the sports industry without having to constantly hide this part of me. Perhaps I would not have withheld many great experiences from myself in my 20s. The list of “maybes” is long.
To be perfectly honest, I’m still a bit uneasy about this second appearance – this time a little more public. I have to admit that I wonder if the perception of me from all the people I’ve worked with and formed close relationships with over the last ten years will change. I hope that in 2022 we will have this behind us.
It does not matter. I think it is necessary to start this discussion in the sports industry. We have to wonder why there are still too many players and people in this business choosing to live with this mystery. We have to think about how we can change the culture and show more openness. If my story can help raise awareness among those who work in our industry, that’s already a win. The rest is secondary.
There is no good reason to stop ourselves from living our lives out of fear of the judgment of others. Not a good reason to wait ten years to find your place in your professional field before making your mark. No good reason not to say it loud and clear: I’m gay and proud of it.