Junior hockey prospect hopes to inspire others after coming out

Saint-Antoine hockey player Yanic Duplessis sent shockwaves after coming out on the Atlantic Canadian FDS Podcast Network. (Submitted: Normand Léger)

A Saint-Antoine hockey prospect, Yanic Duplessis, sent shockwaves through the hockey world after coming out as gay on the Atlantic Canadian FDS Podcast Network. Duplessis, 17, is a prospect in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, drafted by the Drummondville Voltigeurs in 2019.

Duplessis said that the attention was unexpected. He said a reporter who interviewed him on the podcast mentioned that the story could blow up. His parents even called to warn him about the potential attention, but he didn’t believe them.

“I told my parents ‘it’s probably just going to stay around the area,'” Duplessis said.

Duplessis’s coming out was major news amongst hockey circles. After coming out to his parents a year earlier, Duplessis said he received immense support from family and friends when he went public. Duplessis said his teammates called and messaged him in support. He said a friend of his had surprised him at his house to talk and started crying.

“He knew something was up. He just didn’t know what,” he said.

“He was crying because he said, ‘you were going through this alone and it makes me sad.'”

Not only did he have the support of his family, but he’s also received praise on social media. The National Hockey League tweeted in support and used the hashtag “hockey is for everyone.”

QMJHL prospect Yanic Duplessis said if coming out publicly helped one person, it was worth it. (Submitted: Normand Léger)

Duplessis didn’t get to tell all of his friends and family before he came out in the podcast. He said that if his coming out helped just one person, one player, his decision was a success.

“I always told myself that when they knew, I would do something to help other kids that were going through the same thing as me,” he said.

“I was convinced there was at least one more hockey player.”

While athletes coming out is still front-page news, more and more professional athletes are becoming open about themselves to the public.

A former professional hockey player, Brock McGillis, started public speaking after his professional career and advocates for inclusiveness in hockey and other sports. McGillis, 36, said he wants to humanize the LGBTQ+ community for people, more so in sports. Part of the issues he discusses involves the use of homophobic and sexist language in locker rooms and society. McGillis came out in 2016.

McGillis has been in contact with Duplessis for months and was proud of him for coming out publicly.

“It’s not easy to do and it’s not easy at 17,” McGillis said.

“It took a lot of courage [coming out] and hopefully it has a lasting impact in many people’s lives.”

For some, an athlete’s teenage years can be a whirlwind of awkwardness and confusion. St. Thomas University rugby player Myriam Noel said it was awkward in the locker room when she first came out in high school.

For St. Thomas University rugby player Myriam Noel, it was an awkward experience in her high school’s locker room when she came out. (Submitted: Myriam Noel)

“It was a little bit weird at first when I first came out because I was one of the few athletes that came out,” said Noel.

“There were some girls that were kind of weird about changing in front of me.”

Noel, 21, is in her fourth year at STU, double-majoring in criminology and psychology. She said she found no issue when she first came to STU as she met more people and teammates that are gay.

“Going to St. Thomas, you’re pretty much accepted for whoever you are,” she said.