Janne Puhakka was a popular hockey star in Finland, but decided to hang up the skates at the age of 23 because he didn’t feel safe as a gay man in the hockey world.
In a recent interview with the Finnish news site Helsingin Sanomat, Puhakka gave more details on his decision to retire.
“That brought uncertainty,” he said. “I’m sure other players fear the issue because of their jobs, as well.”
While other sports have made leaps in terms of embracing LGBTQ+ inclusion, Puhakka believes hockey “is somehow lagging behind.” He hopes to see professional players, even in the NHL, come out and speak up for gay rights.
He recalls how he heard general homophobic remarks and jokes in the dressing room, despite the fact that he always kept his personal life private.
“We wouldn’t have to go through all this if everyone could be themselves in the locker room,” he said. “I’m glad if even one junior or professional player finds something positive in this interview.”
Puhakka ended his interview by encouraging anyone to speak up and fight homophobia off and on the ice.
“It would be ideal if I didn’t have to talk about this,” he said. “But as long as people are silent on the subject, we must speak up.”