Professional Danish ice hockey goalie Jon Lee-Olsen has come out as gay, reportedly becoming the first male player in Denmark to do so.
Lee-Olsen, 27, revealed the news during a live TV interview with the Danish news program Go’ aften, saying he felt ready for the possible backlash that comes with being a member of the LGBTIQ+ community in Denmark’s national hockey league.
“There’s a risk that some people might shout and heckle me while I’m playing matches,” he admitted.
“It’s something I have to be ready for and be mature about. But I feel that I’m ready to show that you can be gay and play ice hockey.”
Lee-Olsen, a goaltender for Rungsted Seier Capital, said he came out to his teammates several months ago following years of pretending to date girls - sending the team a group text message saying that he “had something [he wanted] to get off [his] chest."
To his relief, Lee-Olsen's teammates were quick to celebrate the news.
“They wrote that they had great respect for the fact that I dared to say it, and that I was still just me,” he told Go’ aften.
“I think there is more openness among us now. Now we can talk freely about the same things from everyday life - without a filter.”
Aside from Lee-Olsen, there are currently just three out male hockey players at the professional worldwide, including Canada’s Brendan Burke and Sweden’s Lars Peter Karlsson.
Closer to home, Australia's ice hockey scene has been productive in extinguishing homophobia in the sport - setting up an annual Pride Game.
Maxime Langelier-Parent, the Melbourne Mustangs Head Coach, said that their team had a "responsibility to promote values that we believe will contribute to making this world a better place for all humans".
"The beauty of Ice Hockey and Sports in general is that if you have the skills, if you are ready to put in the work, and if you can skate, pass, and shoot, no matter your sexual orientation and gender identity, you can play."