Vancouver Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson wears a rainbow flag decal on the back of his goalie mask. He also advocates for LGBT people in sports.

For those efforts he was named “Hetero of the Year” by QX, the major LGBT website in Sweden.

“It’s a great honor being awarded Hetero of the Year in Sweden,” Nilsson wrote on Instagram. “Thank you everyone that has voted on me and think I deserved this award. It’s great to see that the rainbow flag on my goalie helmets has been getting so much attention.
“For me it is really important to be a good role model and show that hockey is for everyone. Especially when it comes to kids and teenagers. Everyone should feel welcomed to play hockey, no matter your sexual orientation, religion or race.”

There are no openly gay NHL players and there has never been one, so it’s players like Nilsson that can make a difference if someone chooses to come out. He also recognizes how young athletes who realize they are gay can self-select out of a sport like hockey if they perceive it as hostile.

“If you’re a kid and play sports, and maybe you’re gay, you think you’re supposed to be a certain way, but as long as you want to play hockey or soccer or baseball or whatever it could be, it’s OK. Me, growing up, there were probably a lot of people who felt they were so-called ‘different,’ even though they weren’t,” Nilsson told Sportsnet.

“They probably quit sports to do something else. It’s important that we keep those persons [in sports]. They should be able to play sports. One of them could be the next Connor McDavid.”

Nilsson was in goal Tuesday night as the Canucks held their Pride Night.