Hockey player coming out as gay must lead to meaningful change in game: advocates
Advocates say a young hockey player's decision to come out as gay this past week, just as he is on the cusp of a possible National Hockey League career, needs to be a catalyst for meaningful cultural change in the game beyond Pride nights and rainbow tape.
“It is a phenomenal thing, but it's not because the (hockey) culture made it safe,” said Brock McGillis, a former goalie who played professionally in North America and Europe.
“For every Luke Prokop there are a thousand (LGBTQ) kids quitting hockey.”
McGillis, who came out five years ago after his career ended, spoke extensively to Prokop before the 19-year-old made his announcement. Based in Toronto, McGillis has become a voice for LGBTQ issues in hockey with the aim of creating safe spaces in the insular world of dressing rooms and rinks.
He has worked on inclusion with individual teams at high levels, but said he has been stymied in bringing in leaguewide changes.
A patchwork approach won't work, he said.
“You can do all the PR stuff you want â€¦ but what are you doing to make that dressing room more of a safe space instead of a space that is filled with homophobic language and where people don't feel comfortable? How are you humanizing these issues and how are you shifting your culture?”
Prokop, from Edmonton, has been playing junior hockey for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. A defenceman, he was picked 73 overall by the NHL's Nashville Predators last year, will go to camp this fall and could become the first openly gay player in the NHL.
“We pledge to do everything possible to ensure that Luke's experience is a welcoming and affirmative one,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib came out last month as the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
Kristopher Wells, an advocate and researcher, says it's critical to have LGBTQ role models in sport.
“People listen to their heroes,” said Wells, an associate professor and research chair for public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth at MacEwan University in Edmonton.
“When young people see their role models stand up, they want to emulate that behaviour and be a part of those new social norms that are forming.”
Wells said true change starts with a supportive group in the locker room or a captain telling a teammate that homophobic slurs won't be tolerated.
That way, he said, those who decide to come out won't have to swap one set of anxieties for another.
“Why Luke's decision is seen as being so courageous is not just because he's the first, but (because) all LGBTQ people know the moment you become visible (when) you come out, you're more likely to be victimized. You become a target. And that's not easy to deal with.”
Cheryl MacDonald is a sports sociologist who has researched and written extensively on homophobia in hockey. She said Prokop's high skill levels will serve to insulate him somewhat, but he'll still have to navigate the bias of some decision-makers who laud inclusivity in public, but act differently in private.
“Luke's story is evidence that it is becoming safer to be an openly gay man in men's competitive professional hockey, but since he's the only one right now, that shows we have work to do,” said MacDonald with Saint Mary's University in Halifax.
“My research has shown that if you can perform on the ice, what you do in your spare time matters less. (But) at very top levels of the game, it is difficult to be different.”
And that doesn't just apply to being gay, she added.
“If you are concussed or injured, if you are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction problems, if you have mental-health problems, if you don't fit in somehow, chances are there is someone that has your skill set and less perceived baggage that will take your job. It's easier just to stay quiet.
“Until we change this idea that you can't just be yourself and be taken where you're at, it's going to be practically impossible to be a gay man in this game.”
McGillis said the potential is there.
“I think hockey people are really good people. I just don't think they realize there's a problem,” he said.
“(They) will rally. We just need to show them this is something to rally around.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 25, 2021
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Long-term care outbreaks are rising, and provinces have different strategies for keeping COVID-19 out
As the fourth wave continues across Canada and community spread climbs, outbreaks are also on the rise inside Canada’s long-term care homes, leading experts to stress the importance of staff being vaccinated — an issue which varies province to province.
Inside hospitals across Saskatchewan, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, health-care workers are reporting a worsening crisis, with record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations pushing the health-care system to the brink.
The corporate entities of SNC-Lavalin Inc. and SNC-Lavalin International Inc., as well as two former senior executives of the Quebec-based firms have been charged with a series of fraud and forgery offences by the RCMP.
An Ontario mother, who had been holding a one-woman protest for the past week to try to get help with her son's autism care, will finally have her file looked at after a call from the social services minister.
Canadian fashion model Linda Evangelista says she's been left 'permanently deformed' from a cosmetic procedure that she had approximately five years ago.
A source close to the family of Brian Laundrie says Gabby Petito's fiance, who is now the subject of a federal warrant, left his parents' Florida home last Tuesday without his cell phone and wallet.
After the most expensive election in Canadian history resulted in little change politically, many are asking whether it was worth the $610-million price tag and where else that money could have been spent.
Environmental activists, many of them students taking time out from school, staged rallies around the world on Friday to demand that leaders take stronger action to curb climate change amid dire warnings of an increasingly hotter globe if nothing is done soon.
Canada has now fully vaccinated 79.46 per cent of the country's eligible population.
Alberta reported 1,660 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 new deaths on Thursday.
Alberta Health is investigating whether an Edson party advertising itself as a “get COVID” event to build up natural immunity to the virus actually happened.
Some Calgary businesses say while the new city vaccination bylaw doesn't change what they do, it does ease some of the pressure on front line staff.
Saskatchewan broke COVID-19 hospitalization records again on Thursday, reporting 273 patients in hospital with 58 in intensive care.
Saskatoon City Council will look at a committee recommendation to allow parking patios to operate through the winter, making them a year-round amenity.
A Saskatoon judge has ruled in favor allowing a father to have his child vaccinated despite the mother being opposed to her child getting the shot.
As COVID-19 cases increase in Saskatchewan youth, medical experts say more restrictions are needed in schools to stop the transmission of the virus.
'Unbelievably heartbreaking': Sask. nurse left waiting for transplant as province suspends organ donation program
Krystal Graham has been on the liver transplant waitlist for about a year. Now, she says she is concerned COVID-19 will delay her life-saving surgery even longer.
The Melville Millionaires have postponed hockey games until further notice after a positive COVID-19 case associated with the team.
The first twenty-four hours following New Brunswick's rollout of new pandemic restrictions have been rocky for some of the businesses tasked with enforcing the new rules.
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting the province’s 95th death related to COVID-19, along with 41 new cases and 20 recoveries on Thursday, as the number of active cases in the province rises to 147.
Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting 52 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, along with 35 recoveries, as the number of active cases in the province rises to 574.
A possible loophole in B.C.’s vaccine card registration system is making the rounds on social media.
The Vancouver Canucks are banking on the capacity limits at Rogers Arena being lifted in time for the regular season home opener.
In a significant upset, the long-time Conservative incumbent in Richmond Centre has lost her seat to a political newcomer, according to the CTV News Decision Desk.
An investigation into the shooting of a white cow moose in northern Ontario last fall has been closed and officials say no charges will be laid.
A 17-year-old from Greater Sudbury has been charged with attempted murder in connection with the stabbing of a woman downtown last week.
CTV News has learned Timmins police have a suspect in custody after one person was killed and two others were injured in a shooting in Schumacher overnight.
A Manitoba critical care doctor and infectious diseases specialist remains cautiously optimistic when it comes to the impact of the fourth wave in Manitoba.
Five businesses in Manitoba received tickets last week for not following public health orders.
A multi-car crash on a Manitoba highway on Wednesday resulted in police arresting a driver on impaired driving and weapon charges.
The cases were among 832 new cases found in B.C. over the past 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health.
The president of the Cedar Hill Golf Club says a report from District of Saanich staff recommending changes to the operation df Cedar Hill Golf Course will hurt the club and its members.
Health officials on Vancouver Island have declared clusters of COVID-19 at four more schools in the South Island. There are now five active clusters at schools in the region.
A youth-led demonstration demanding urgent climate action from leaders in all levels of government is expected today at the Ontario legislature.
The City of Toronto is holding a number of mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics at malls across the city this weekend.
Nick Gordon drove in four runs and Michael Pineda won his third straight start as the Minnesota Twins beat Toronto 7-2 on Thursday night to bump the Blue Jays back in the AL wild-card race.
After just a few hours of debate, Quebec's National Assembly voted unanimously Thursday evening to pass a new bill that would prohibit anti-vaccine protesters from demonstrating near schools, daycares, and hospitals -- an offence punishable by a fine of up to $12,000.
Amid major staff shortages, Quebec will cut large cheques to health-care workers in a bid to strengthen a public network put under serious pressure by the pandemic.
Quebec kids were at the heart of a heated exchange Thursday over language laws -- specifically, English-speaking kids and whether they're really leaving school with functional French.
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is reporting that residents of the Saugeen First Nation were given expired doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for nearly a month before the error was caught.
Someone in Ontario won more than $21 million in Wednesday’s LOTTO 6/49 draw but has yet to check their ticket.
Provincial police are investigating after one person was killed in a farming accident in Norfolk County.
Regional police are investigating a "suspicious death" in Kitchener on Friday morning.
A former Kitchener MP has pleaded guilty to assault charges.
Waterloo Region’s big Bavarian festival officially kicks off on Friday.