Yanic Duplessis is a 17-year-old elite-level Canadian hockey player who just became even more remarkable — he bravely came out as gay.
Duplessis, who was drafted by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Drummondville Voltigeurs in 2019, hopes that by publicly addressing his sexuality, he can help destigmatize coming out in the hockey community.
“It was a struggle for me, and it shouldn’t be,” he said of his decision in an interview with the CBC, adding “it shouldn’t be a big deal.”
And though he describes hockey as “a very macho, manly sport,” Duplessis says he’s received overwhelming support, including this tweet from former NHL and current Quebec MNA player Enrico Ciccone:
?Yanic Duplessis, an elite athlete, has had the courage and dignity to publicly embrace his sexual difference.
— Enrico Ciccone (@EnricoCiccone) September 8, 2020
The NHL also shared support on Facebook, writing “#HockeyIsForEveryone”.
Closer to home and even more significant, Duplessis’ teammates fully embraced his decision.
Duplessis shared how one teammate was particularly impacted:
“He came home and started crying because he said ‘I didn’t know you were going through this alone, and you should have told us.’”
While Duplessis does report hearing homophobic language tossed around in the locker room prior to his coming out, he expects that to change.
“If they knew I was gay, I’m sure they wouldn’t have said what they did,” he said.
Duplessis had for several weeks been in contact with former pro player Brock McGillis, who in 2016 became the first openly-gay professional hockey player.
“I’m always a little hesitant when someone chooses to come out in men’s hockey culture, and sports culture in general, especially at a young age … because I’m worried about how they’re going to be treated in the game,” McGillis said.
“I was so happy,” he recalls feeling after seeing all the support Duplessis received. “The biggest takeaway is: when we humanize issues for people they will more often than not step up. As we humanize, we can educate and have an impact.”
McGillis says many young closeted players have contacted him seeking advice.
“I have kids all over North America, some come through their secret, fake Instagram accounts,” he said. “There’s a lot of kids out there struggling with this. And it only makes sense.”
Hopefully, Duplessis just made it that much easier for the others.