Young athletes 'feel pressured to fit in,' former OHL player says
'They don’t feel like they have a choice ... being influenced by older players," Brock McGillis says
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."
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.
With files from Kate Bueckert