Yanic Duplessis, a 17-year-old elite hockey player in Canada, has come out publicly as gay.
“I just want to share my story, so if someone is going through the same thing I did, I want to help, even if it’s only one person that reads this,” he said in an interview with Craig Eagles of the “Out in the Open” podcast.
His story is familiar to any young person dealing with their sexuality, with the added pressure of being a talented hockey player drafted by two junior leagues, stepping stones to playing higher-level hockey, including the NHL. “It was a struggle for me, and it shouldn’t be,” Duplessis said. “I felt like an outcast.”
Duplessis was outed this June when a friend he confided in about being gay spread the news at a party he was not even at. He got a call from a former teammate who asked him if the rumor was true and panicked about how he would be received. He soon got his answer.
“Honestly, a lot of friends and teammates have called me,” he said on the podcast. “One teammate actually came over to my house to check on me. It was the first day he found out. He came over to make sure that I knew that he accepted me and supported me.
“We talked a lot and he started crying because he knew I was going through a very tough time and that I was doing it alone. ... I will never forget that.”
Like a lot of teenagers coming to grips with their sexual orientation, Duplessis felt isolated, depressed, anxious and constantly afraid his secret would come out. “It eats you up inside,” he told the CBC.
Duplessis’ coming out journey was aided by parents, Diane Dandurand and Andre Duplessis, who were worried when his grades suddenly dropped.
“My mom would always come to pick me up from school when I wasn’t feeling well,” said Dupkessis, who lives in Saint-Antoine, New Brunswick, in Canada’s Maritime provinces. “Both my parents were starting to get really worried, especially my mom. She called the school and cried when she spoke to the principal.”
“My principal spoke to me asking what was wrong, he referred me to the school’s psychologist. No one knew what was wrong with me, but they all knew something was wrong.”
He finally couldn’t take it any more and came out to his parents.
“My parents automatically said that they loved me no matter what and that they accepted me,” he said.
The 5-10, 190-pound Duplessis still couldn’t bring himself to come out to his teammates (he was playing for a high-level midget team) despite being drafted by the two junior leagues and being a star player.
“I was terrified that the wrong person would out me, especially when I wasn’t ready to say anything,” he said. “I was scared of being rejected and judged.
“I was scared that my teammates would be afraid to be around me or them thinking I would go after them. They were like brothers to me and I never looked at them that way.”
Part of what scared him was the culture of a hockey locker room, where he was so nervous about being found out that he avoided showering with the rest of the team.
“I’m not saying hockey players aren’t nice, because they are, but in the dressing room between the boys, and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, but in the room people say some things to be cool or whatever,” he said.
“They would say things about being gay or something and laugh at it. I would do the same thing, because I wanted to blend in.”
Duplessis was drafted in 2019 by the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which counts among its alumi such NHL stars as Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur, Ray Bourque, Pat LaFontaine, Mike Bossy, Denis Savard, Michel Goulet, Luc Robitaille and Patrick Roy.
For now, though, he wants to play close to home this fall for his high school team before starting his junior hockey career. He wants time to process all he’s been through before jumping up a level in the sport he has been passionate about since he was a young boy.
Asked for what advice he would give a future teammate about how to act in the locker room around someone who is gay, Duplessis was direct.
“Be careful what you say, watch what you say in the room. It’s just not about being gay, it could be about anything that could trigger something.
“Just be careful what you talk about in the room.”
Outsports will host an online conversation on LGBTQ acceptance in hockey with four players and referees, Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT (details here).