Jon Lee-Olsen, goalkeeper of Rungsted Seier Capital in Rungsted, Denmark, recently came out as gay in a live interview with the Danish news programme Go’ aften.
The 27 year old becomes the first professional male ice hockey player to come out publicly as gay in Denmark and may be the only openly gay ice hockey player competing professionally in the world, per TV 2.
“There’s a risk that some people might shout and heckle me while I’m playing matches. It’s something I have to be ready for, and be mature about. But I feel that I’m ready to show that you can be gay and play ice hockey,” said Lee-Olsen. “It took longer than I expected, but now I’m ready to stand up for myself and others.” [Note: He spoke in Danish, which Outsports has translated to English.]
While the NHL has been doing more in recent years to show support of its fans in the LGBTQ community, there’s never been an out man in the NHL. Still, Danish NHL player Lars Eller of the Washington Capitals has shown full support on Lee-Olsen’s coming out, hoping that his actions will inspire others in their sport to come out too.
“It’s special,” Eller has said. “You might say that about any sport, but ice hockey has a very macho culture, so I think it must not have been an easy decision for him. It’s very brave.”
Even outside the NHL there’s been very little representation of gay men in the sport globally. Lars Peter Karlsson played in the Swedish national hockey league until 1993 and was killed in 1995 by a man who claimed Karlsson was gay. In researching for this article, it’s unclear whether Karlsson came out publicly or was outed posthumously.
Ex-OHL player Brock McGillis came out publicly only after retiring, but he has since become an advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the sport and an ambassador for the #OneTeam initiative.
“Hockey has always been very homophobic because it has always been hyper-masculine, meant for the manliest of men,” McGillis has said.
Unlike women’s pro hockey, which is home to a number of out players and wide LGBTQ acceptance within the NWHL, Lee-Olsen’s coming out represents a meaningful shift for men’s hockey and inspiring courage in gay boys and men aspiring to be in the NHL one day.
You can watch the full interview (in Danish) with Lee-Olsen on TV 2 PLAY.