Kitchener-Waterloo

Young athletes 'feel pressured to fit in,' former OHL player says

In the wake of allegations by former Kitchener Rangers player Eric Guest that he was forced to do cocaine at a team party when he was 16, another former OHL player says young hockey players continuously feel pressured to fit in.

'They don’t feel like they have a choice ... being influenced by older players," Brock McGillis says

Brock McGillis has been sharing his story of being a gay semi-professional hockey player with elementary schools, high schools, and junior hockey teams across Canada. (Submitted by Brock McGillis)

In the wake of allegations by former Kitchener Rangers forward Eric Guest that he was forced to do cocaine at a team party when he was a rookie, another former OHL player says young hockey players continuously feel pressured to fit in. 

In an Instagram post on Sunday, Guest who played for the Rangers from 2016 to 2019, alleged the incident occurred at a house party with his teammates when he was 16.

The Ontario Hockey League says it plans to launch an investigation into allegations.

Responding to the allegations on Wednesday, Brock McGillis said young players face tremendous pressure.

"I think the biggest issue ... is conformity within the sport, where people feel pressured to fit in and if they don't fit in they will be harassed verbally or bullied," McGillis told CBC News.

"They don't feel like they have a choice, especially young players being influenced by older players."

Eric Guest is a former Kitchener Rangers centre forward. In a video posted to his personal Instagram on Sunday, he tells the story of when he was 16 and a teammate told him he would be locked in a bathroom until he did cocaine at a house party. (Eric Guest/@ericguest88/Instagram)

McGillis, who has played professionally in both the United States and Europe, is the first professional hockey player to openly come out as gay.

He has become an influential advocate for the LGBTQ community, speaking at corporations, events, conferences and schools.

Mcgillis said hockey culture "is really bad" and is in need of "a flat out overhaul."

But he said there are things that could be done in the interim to help bring about change and provide a safer environment for players.

"Something as simple as town halls, where these issues are humanized for people, where people hear the experiences of somebody who's been abused or bullied, the experience of a gay person," Brock said.

"I think a lot of these issues in hockey are on the men's side more so than the women's side. The women's game, they may have their own separate issues, but in terms of culture, it seems to be far less toxic."

'Maybe some people can relate'

In his video, Guest said he will not name anyone and he only feels comfortable opening up now because he knows he'll never play in the NHL.

"For me, a lot of this stuff, I would never say anything along these lines while I was still playing because you can't. If I said something or I talked about some of this stuff, any chance I had of playing professional hockey or anything was over instantly," Guest said in the video.

"I'm not trying to bash any team, organization or anything. This is strictly what I've gone through personally and just, maybe some people can get something out of it and relate to it," he added.

The Kitchener Rangers said in a statement Tuesday that it had contacted the Waterloo Regional Police Service about "potentially criminal conduct" and would make no further comments until the investigation was complete.

A former Kitchener Rangers player says he was pressured to use cocaine at a team house party when he was a minor. Brock McGillis, a former OHL player, says hazing and peer pressure are common in hockey culture, and that more needs to be done to root it out. 7:06

With files from Kate Bueckert

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now