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Saskatchewan athlete who played college hockey on when NHLer comes out: ‘It’s going to take one’

Click to play video: 'Is hockey ready for an openly gay active player in the NHL?' Is hockey ready for an openly gay active player in the NHL?
WATCH: Is hockey ready for an openly gay active player in the NHL? – Jun 26, 2021

Brock Weston hopes the hockey community is ready when an active player in the NHL comes out as openly gay after the NFL saw its first earlier this Pride Month.

The former college athlete congratulated Las Vegas Raiders’ Carl Nassib for his announcement via social media and said it’s a “huge” statement in professional sports.

Read more: Las Vegas Raiders’ Carl Nassib comes out as NFL’s first openly gay active player

“It’s incredible … I hope that it never has to be a coming-out story. Hopefully, we can end that in its entirety because it’s just who you are, and I know a lot of people that identify that aren’t heterosexual, so it’s become more accepted,” Weston said.

“I think it will really change the outlook and the development of players with the language used and the space created. I’m excited to see how that splash makes a wave.

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“To have it in football was impressive, important and I’m excited to see what happens now. I was also impressed with the response from the NFL and his teammates and lots of other people within the football community.”

The Maidstone, Sask., native said he knew he wasn’t straight for roughly three years before coming out.

“I think ultimately what led to it was just kind of the offhanded comments from mostly teammates here and there that you knew what they were trying to say or ask or make fun of,” Weston said.

“The tipping point for me was when they started to ask and prod at my roommate who actually did know at the time … everyone instead of having a backbone and asking, they were just making these comments and then they started making them to my roommate to see if he would spill the beans.

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“I had enough and I didn’t want to live like that and I couldn’t have him living like that — hiding my secret.”

Read more: Saskatchewan hockey player shares personal letter, coming out to teammates

In April 2019, the defenseman penned a letter to tell his teammates with Marian University’s Division III National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hockey program in Wisconsin.

“A couple of guys stood up and just said, ‘Brock, we support you. We love you. You’re one of our brothers. This doesn’t change a thing’ and so that was amazing. Then we literally had a giant team hug in the room and it was pretty cool … it was a lot but it was definitely well-received,” Weston said.

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NHL player Kurtis Gabriel aims to make the league more welcoming for LGBTQ community – Jun 9, 2021

In Weston’s opinion, hockey has a long ways to go in terms of acceptance but it’s headed in the right direction.

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“I think in the more professional areas it’s making the right strides. It lags a little bit simply because of the fan base, the media and the spotlight,” he said.

“There’s a risk involved. That’s an entire career that you’re — I don’t want to say putting in jeopardy — but putting in the spotlight.”

“The challenges in … the NHL, if you’re a bubble guy, so you’re up from the (American Hockey League) or you’re in the NHL … how do you justify coming out?

“It might be a subconscious thing but a coach is going to say, ‘well, his play isn’t quite up to par, we’d better send him down.’ When really it might be subconscious. Like, ‘I don’t want that in the locker room right now. We’re on a skid.’ There’s so many pieces to it.”

Having the first openly gay active player in the NHL is something the 26-year-old looks forward to.

“It’s going to take one. It’s going to take someone to do it and they’re just going to have to do it,” Weston said.

“They’re going to be in the spotlight and it’s going to be tough but it’s going to be incredible. I know that there’s a ton of support.

“But there’s also a lot, especially at that level, there’s a lot of people who have different opinions and I invite you to go look at when the NHL changed their logo and all the team logos to have the rainbow, the Pride rainbow on it, and just look at the comments on that sort of stuff, on Facebook and Instagram … You’ll see why there needs to be a change in culture.”

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Read more: Former pro goalie calls on parents to shut out homophobic language in locker rooms

For any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, two-spirited (LGBTQ2) athletes thinking about coming out publicly, Weston advises first finding a person who they can trust with that part of themselves.

“If you’re ready, then do it and just know that you’re gonna have support … I got support from all my friends and I got understanding from my family and, now, support and it’s incredible the way that people will adapt if they care about you,” he said.

“I have a lot of friends that supported me through the whole thing and have demonstrated that they’re ready. They don’t care. They are just happy that I’m happy.”

“If you need help or someone to talk to, I’m way more than happy to help. It’s humbling to know that people find comfort and confidence and knowing that someone like myself has gone through it and come out relatively unscathed and live in themselves.”

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan hockey player shares personal letter, coming out to teammates' Saskatchewan hockey player shares personal letter, coming out to teammates
Saskatchewan hockey player shares personal letter, coming out to teammates – May 8, 2020

While Weston’s competitive hockey days may be over, his love for the game and teammate comradery still lives strong.

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“What isn’t to love? I love how fast it is. I love how hard I can hit people. I miss the road trips a lot actually and hanging out with the boys. You build some pretty incredible friendships playing hockey,” he said.

This August, Weston will embark on a new journey to become a doctor after being accepted into the medicine program at the University of Saskatchewan.

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