Brock McGillis has become an indispensible advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in hockey. | Brock McGillis

Brock McGillis has been on a 100-day tour speaking with hockey teams, including hockey players, across North America about the importance of building a locker room culture that welcomes LGBTQ athletes.

McGillis is the perfect person to talk with hockey players about language and LGBTQ inclusion for a couple reasons. First, he’s gay and a former hockey player. He’s been inside these locker rooms, he knows what guys are like with one another, and he knows the impact it has on closeted gay athletes.

Second, he’s a great speaker, sharing an important message and doing it in a non-threatening, non-accusatory way.

That is exceedingly apparent in just this 55-second video of him talking with Toronto Maple Leafs players earlier this week. The video, shot and shared by the Maple Leafs, perfectly encapsulates the message every athlete should hear:

“I love hockey and I didn’t feel like I could be me and play the sport I love,” he told the Maple Leafs players. “So I suppressed it. And I struggled. I adhered to all the norms of the culture, but it wasn’t enough and I hated myself.

“The reality is, Gen Z, as some of you are, identify as LGBTQ+ at over 20%. And yet, nobody is out in our leagues. You don’t know whom you’re impacting in the room. You don’t know who you’re impacting in your own life. You could be impacting your teammate, you could be impacting your friend, you could be impacting somebody you care about.

“Your words, your actions, your behaviors might save a kid’s life. So when you think about impact, please recognize you can have a positive one or a negative one.”

The players applauded, and the team gave McGillis an official Maple Leafs jersey with his name, signed by all the players.

It’s the perfect message for players to hear. Yes, there are — with 736 NHL players on rosters at any given time — gay or bi players. With 23 players on any NHL team and years of these athletes playing the sport, every one of them has played (or is playing) with a gay or bi teammate.

Do you really want to make them feel bad about themselves with your language?

Of course, McGillis also talks about what that language looks like, and it’s not just gay slurs that keep gay athletes in the closet.

If you’re a hockey team, you’d do well to bring McGillis in to talk with your players and coaches. His message powerful and he does a great job.

You can follow Brock McGillis on Instagram and on X.

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