Yanic Duplessis and the final frontier of mainstream sports—hockey and the gay male player

There are three stages to the coming-out process for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

To wit:

Discovering yourself is the interesting part, accepting yourself is the hard part, revealing yourself is the frightening part that goes bump in the night.

Yanic Duplessis has arrived at Stage 3.

Young Yanic came out publicly earlier this month and, no, it didn’t qualify as news with an uppercase N because no one is talking about him as a hockey prodigy. He’s still a kid, just 17, and he’s trying to find his way in life and on the ice, where he might one day suit up with Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and possibly beyond.

That’s a big if.

Les Voltigeurs selected the product of Saint-Antoine, N.B., in the ninth round of the Q’s entry draft in 2019, but he was not among the 34 participants in training exercises that began last month. He also declined an invitation to join Campbellton Tigers of the Maritime Junior Hockey League for their pre-season frolic. He’s chosen to stick close to home and play high school hockey.

That isn’t the preferred path to a professional career.

Yanic Duplessis

Still, Yanic’s coming out caused something of a stir because homosexuality is a taboo topic in male hockey. Except, of course, when anti-gay slurs are used as weaponry.

“It should be a non-event, and some day it will be a non-event, but it’s not a non-event now,” Brian Burke said of Duplessis from his Hockey Night in Canada lectern the other night.

Burke is correct.

A teenage hockey player’s sexuality shouldn’t be news, front or back page. But it grabs the attention of the CBC and HNIC because the National Hockey League has never known an openly gay player. Active or retired. Nor have any of its affiliated minor leagues and its main breeding ground, the Canadian Hockey League. There have been more confirmed sightings of Sasquatch than the gay male hockey player. At least one woman, Manon Rheaume, has appeared in an NHL game (preseason), but never an openly gay man. There are female scouts and coaches. But gay guys? They need not apply.

Many wonder why Yanic Duplessis is news. So he’s gay, they say. Why make a fuss out of his sexuality? Nobody cares, right?

Oh, but they do care.

Consider:

  • There were three anti-gay incidents in Airdrie, Alta., this summer, including a rainbow crosswalk that was tarred and feathered.

  • Would-be Conservative party leadership candidate Richard Décarie believes being gay is “a choice,” and marriage should be exclusive to men and women.

  • Tennessee governor Bill Lee recently signed into law an anti-gay adoption bill. Nine other states have similar laws.

  • A student at the University of Louisville entered an LGBT studies course and distributed anti-gay pamphlets.

  • Last month an employee of a Catholic fringe group in Detroit ordered a cake from the lesbian-owned Good Cakes and Bakes and requested that this message be written on the icing: “Homosexual acts are gravely evil.”

  • LGBT hate crimes in England and Wales went from 5,807 in 2014-15 to 13,530 in 2018-19.

  • According to a 2017 report, 60 per cent of LGBT students across the U.S. feel unsafe at school due to sexual orientation and 40 per cent feel unsafe due to gender.

Then there was the recent raising of a Pride flag outside city hall in Minot, N.D., the very heartland of the U.S.A. Mayor Shaun Sipma and council invited the citizenry to share their thoughts on the matter. Here are some of their natterings:

“Today it’s LGBQ. What’s next? BLM? Antifa? White supremacy? You opened up a can of worms Mr. Mayor, and I pray that lunacy does not prevail on the streets of our fine city due to a poor decision brought to us by you. I’m not here to judge. Judgement belongs to a higher power than all of us here.”

“We can pull down the 10 Commandments out of our court yards, out of our schools, we can slap God in the face, mock God. His word says he will not be mocked, just so you know, you ain’t getting away with it, and then raise up a flag praising something that God’s word speaks against. Now I’m gonna tell you a warning, I’m gonna warn you, that’s why I’m here…not about physical violence…I’m here to warn you of God’s judgement. God will…not…let…this…go.”

“The American flag represents the hearts of Americans, and the LGBT flag represents the genitals of certain Americans. Now, I’ve always thought the genitals were kind of a sacred thing, in the sense that, for one, what you do with them is your business and not mine. In terms of the numbers game here, there’s probably a larger Star Wars fan base here than there is LGBT community, and where’s the Star Wars flag being raised? Or Vikings fans? Since we’re next door to Minnesota, let’s raise a Vikings flag. As long as we’re on that page, how about a heterosexual flag and a Confederate flag and the list goes on and on. You opened a can of worms, and do you want all those worms?”

“You can’t even look at the small little things that can turn into a bombshell. I already see our guns coming. It’s coming next. Our freedoms are being taken away. I’ve never been so pissed off in my entire life and so disappointed in our mayor, ’cause you’re bringing war to the city of Minot.”

“I’ve got relatives that were ex-homosexuals, I got friends that are homosexuals. I love ’em all, but here’s the choice: We gotta make a choice for life and not for death.”

“I was raised under the 10 Commandments, and that’s also a law, it’s the law of God. I hope you have the nerve to back up our police department when this city starts seeing the kind of garbage that’s been going on around the country, when people start coming in rioting and tearing things down because of the door you’ve opened.”

“That flag is called an abomination to God. We love God and must stand for truth. When the righteous rule, the people rejoice. When the wicked rule, the people mourn.”

“(The Pride flag) identifies Satan.”

“If that letter P (pedophile) is added to LGBTQ a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, are you still gonna fly that flag?”

Lunacy. Rioting and looting. Worms. Loss of freedoms. Guns. War. Death. Satan. Pedophilia. All that hostility and holier-than-thou condemnation (and there was much, much more) simply because a flag was raised to recognize support for the gay community. Remind me to cancel that weekend trip to Minot.

Homophobia isn’t going to disappear any time soon, and certainly not during what remains of my lifetime. Gays are still too often considered lesser-thans, and men’s hockey represents the final frontier in mainstream sports, even as it trumpets itself as a game that “is for everyone.”

If hockey truly was “for everyone,” Yanic Duplessis coming out wouldn’t even be a blip on the news radar screen.

I don’t know if there’s a God but, if so, I like to think she or he is looking down on young Yanic with favor. Those things that go bump in the night can be mean and nasty and frightening for any 17-year-old kid who’s come out, let alone a hockey player, and they/he need all the positive reinforcement and acceptance they can get.

I know how toxic a hockey changing room can be, so godspeed to him.

Colin Kaepernick is no Ali, but he has people listening to what he’s saying

Let’s not get silly and compare what Colin Kaepernick is doing to Muhammad Ali’s refusal to heed Uncle Sam’s call to arms.

Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national anthem.
Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national anthem.

Yes, Kaepernick has taken a stand by sitting/kneeling during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner at National Football League games, but when the San Francisco 49ers commence their 2016 crusade he’ll be the backup quarterback. His protest against police brutality and the oppression of black people/people of color hasn’t cost him his livelihood. His bank account is no less ample. He’s in no danger of being arrested, cuffed, hauled into court and sentenced to five years in prison.

Ali was dealt every bit of that hand. And more. Including death threats. Yet he was all-in. He had “no quarrel with them Viet Cong” so he wasn’t going to drop bombs on, or shoot bullets at, innocent brown people come hell or hoosegow.

By way of comparison, Kaepernick’s posture has, at worst, earned him enemies who see him not as a caped crusader for colored people but, rather, as an anti-anthem, anti-military and an anti-America ingrate who ought to just play football and zip his lips unless he plans to pledge allegiance to a country that he believes has come undone.

But when did doing and saying nothing become acceptable?

Maybe Rosa Parks should have given her seat to that white man and moved to the back of the bus where the black folk belonged to save herself from finger printing and time in jail.

Maybe Martin Luther King Jr. should have stayed home to mow the lawn instead of marching through the southern United States and spending time behind bars.

Maybe Gandhi should have just bought government salt rather than walk more than 200 miles to collect his own and spare himself yet another stretch in jail.

Tommie Smith, centre, and John Carlos at the Summer Olympics in Mexico.
Tommie Smith, centre, and John Carlos, right, at the Summer Olympics in Mexico.

Maybe Tommie Smith and John Carlos should have played nice by putting on their shoes, unclenching their hands and smiling for the cameras at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.

Maybe Jesse Owens should have skipped out on the 1936 Olympics and let Hitler have his way.

Maybe Harvey Milk should have stayed in the closet.

Maybe students at Kent State should have gone to class instead of carrying signs, marching and shouting.

Maybe all those young people shouldn’t have taken sledge hammers to the Berlin Wall.

Maybe Marlon Brando should have accepted his Oscar as best actor for his role as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather rather than send an Apache woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, to deliver a speech about the misrepresentation of Native Americans in film and on TV, at the same time drawing attention to Wounded Knee.

Maybe John and Yoko shouldn’t have acted like a couple of layabouts and gotten out of bed.

Maybe Johnny Cash should have worn more colorful clothing.

Maybe Nellie McClung should have stayed home to cook and clean for her hubby and their five children rather than make so much noise about women voting and being “persons.”

Maybe the drag queens, transgender individuals, cross-dressers, butch lesbians and gay men at the Stonewall Inn should have simply tucked their feathered boas between their legs and peacefully piled into paddy wagons rather than kick up a fuss.

Maybe all those draft dodgers who sought refuge in Canada should have been turned back at the border.

Maybe punter Chris Kluwe should have kept silent and not exposed homophobia among the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff.

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey
Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey

Maybe Branch Rickey should have hired Jack Roosevelt Robinson to shine his shoes rather than sign him to a Brooklyn Dodgers contract that made him the first black man to play Major League Baseball.

Maybe what Colin Kaepernick is doing won’t amount to anything. He’s no Ali. He’s no Jackie Robinson (who, by the way, would not salute the flag or stand for the anthem toward the end of his life). He’s no Rosa Parks. He’s no Gandhi. He’s just a backup quarterback clinging to a high-paying job that grants him a lifestyle of privilege.

But, he’s got people talking. And thinking. He sees something that he believes isn’t right. He’s trying to fix it, as are other athletes who have begun to parrot him. How can that be wrong?

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 46 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.

 

Red Cards and Yellow Cards to you, you, you and my own self

Evander Kane and Kevin (Takethedayoff) Cheveldayoff need to spend some time on Planet Pinocchio.

rooftop riting biz card back sideThe World Cup is in the rear view mirror, but that doesn’t mean we have to put away the red and yellow cards. Matter of fact, I’m going to my pocket because there are some people who need to be carded…

RED CARD: To Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun/Sun Media.

I have often red-carded Little Stevie Blunder because he is, perhaps, the most red-cardable jock journalist in the land. To err is human, but this Sun scribe is never wrong. Just ask him.

I did that very thing once upon a time. Little Stevie had written that the Minnesota Vikings never were champions of the National Football League. I sent him an email, suggesting he might be mistaken.

“The Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, but did they not win the final NFL title prior to the merger with the American Football League?” I inquired. “I’m looking at the official NFL record book as I write, and it lists Minnesota as the 1969 NFL champion. Is the official NFL record book wrong, or are you wrong?”

Well, didn’t that just ruffle his not-so-pretty plummage?

Little Stevie’s response was quite snotty. Basically, he told me I was a ditz who didn’t know pigskin from porcelain and I shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of his high-and-mighty huffing and puffing. Without saying the NFL record book was wrong, he said it was wrong.

So now we have Little Stevie playing loose with history once again, this time in Major League Baseball.

Sitting to the host’s right on TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge this past Sabbath, Little Stevie went into full bluster and told us this about Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers sensational southpaw: “His last eight starts, two no-hitters, five earned runs.”

Kershaw has one no-hitter in his entire career, not two in eight starts.

Normally, a foul of this nature would warrant only a yellow card, but Simmons gets a red card because he’s so arrogant.

pegsunRED CARD: To the Winnipeg Sun.

Why does PegSun run Little Stevie Blunder’s three-dot columns on Sundays? Too much of it is Toronto-centric. In his most-recent piece, Simmons offered 14 opinions on Tranna athletes/issues compared to just one about Winnipeg. Does anyone in River City actually care about the Raptors and the naming of a Scarborough street after Peter Zezel?

Why doesn’t PegSun have one of its own people do the column? Like Paul Friesen. Or a freelancer who’d make the thing more Peg-centric.

RED CARD: To Kevin Klein, grand poobah of MyToba.ca.

I’m sure Klein has some boffo ideas, because the MyToba.ca website is quite good. But his campaign to have Dancing Gabe Langlois inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame is not among his boffo notions. It is, in fact, a really, really dumb idea.

Klein made his plea in a May column on MyToba.ca, and asked folks to sign a petition in support. Two months later, he has 157 of his targeted 10,000 signatures.

Take the hint, Kevin: Take the story down from your website.

YELLOW CARD: To Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Gary La La engaged Dave Reid in one of those staged, to-and-fro chin-wags in which both voices talk loud and, often, at the same time on TSN’s That’s Hockey. Their debate focused on the merits of having either Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets or Seth Jones of the Nashville Predators as the centrepiece of your National Hockey League franchise.

“Leadership?” Gary La La said in summation. “You could slap the C on Jacob Trouba in Winnipeg right now and no one would blink.”

Yo! La La! I’m pretty certain Andrew Ladd would blink as they ripped the C off his sweater.

Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff
Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff

YELLOW CARD: To Jets left winger Evander Kane and general manager Kevin (Takethedayoff) Cheveldayoff.

These two need to spend some time on Planet Pinocchio. Here’s why: When Kane arrives at training camp (on time but probably not soon enough for the naysayers), the news scavengers will be circling, They will be hungry. They will be prepared to pick at his bones. This will be their first volley:

“Do you want to be here in Winnipeg, Evander?”

This will be the central theme throughout training exercises—and into the NHL season—unless the polarizing player and the pulseless GM stop talking in circles about Kane’s life expectancy with the Jets.

Kane and Cheveldayoff need to do what most hockey people do—lie. The next time Kane is asked if he’s happy in Pegtown, he must say, “Yes.” When Cheveldayoff is asked if he is attempting to peddle his sometimes petulant player’s posterior to the highest bidder, he must say, “No.”

You and I will know both their noses are growing and their pants are on fire, but their big, fat fibs ought to curb the controversy. We then can move on to more pressing training camp issues. Like the size of Dustin Byfuglien’s girth.

YELLOW CARD: To local newsies for sticking their microphones and notepads under Dale Hawerchuk’s nose to get his take on the Kane situation.

Exactly what did the scavengers expect Ducky to say? That Winnipeg is a cesspool? That Kane should run for the hills?

There’s no suggestion that the Jets legend was anything less than sincere when he endorsed good, ol’ Hometown as a swell place to spend an NHL career, but come on, people. That’s not a fresh slant on a touchy issue. It’s not news. It’s True North propaganda.

YELLOW CARD: To my very own self because of what I scribbled about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for The Huddle Magazine last September.

“Be afraid, kids. Be very afraid. Here’s why. What transpired at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry on Friday night might have been a preview of the 2014 Canadian Football League season.

Keep in mind that your Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be keeping company with B.C., Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan next year, so the 53-17 paddy whacking the B.C. Lions laid on the locals could become the rule rather than the exception.

Scary thought, isn’t it?

I mean, if you’re the bottom feeder in the CFL East Division, what’s going to happen when you’re running with the big dogs in the West Division? Well, here’s a hint: The Bombers are 1-6 vs. West outfits in 2013 and they’ve been outscored 238-145 for a per game average of 34-20. So batten the hatches and hide all the women and children.

Oh, I suppose a lot will change between now and next July. Maybe the Bombers will find a general manager. Maybe they’ll find a head coach who knows where the Xs and Os belong on the offensive side of the football. Maybe they’ll find a quarterback who doesn’t give the ball away like candy on Halloween. Maybe they’ll find some large lads who can pass block. Maybe they’ll find some receivers who don’t have alligator arms in traffic. Maybe they’ll find someone who can kick a field goal.

And maybe I’ll be Miss Grey Cup 2013.”

Well, our football heroes are 3-and-oh and atop the Canadian Football League West Division standings.

D’oh!

(FOOTNOTE: I invite your comments. I do not, however, welcome some of your comments. If you believe what I’ve written is the natterings of a nincompoop and belongs at the bottom of a bird cage, let ‘er rip. Tell me why. I enjoy healthy debate. That can be fun. If, on the other hand, your idea of a critique is to attack/insult me about my gender or sexual orientation, then we aren’t going to get along. Let’s put it this way: It is permissible to question the size of my IQ, but not the size of my boobs. Bottom line: I don’t get paid to write this crap, so play nice, kids.)