Former OHL player Brock McGillis is set to speak to students at the three Rainy River District School Board high schools next week in an effort to educate and engage students to end the use of homophobic language.
McGillis will share his struggle of being a closeted pro athlete, and his empowering message of self-love and inclusion, while aiming to change the perceptions of LGBTQ athletes and individuals.
He will visit Atikokan High School on Dec. 4, Rainy River High School on Dec. 5, and Fort Frances High School on Dec. 6.
Growing up, McGillis always thought hockey was his calling. After all, he played in the OHL, and professionally in the U.S. and in Europe.
As a goalie, he even was viewed as a top prospect for the NHL.
What most didn't know was the struggle McGillis was having internally that led to several injuries and bouts with depression.
He was fighting an internal battle many are fighting; he was gay.
“For years I lived a life full of lies," noted McGillis. ”Growing up in a culture of hockey-minor hockey, the Ontario Hockey League, university hockey, and pro-I felt I would never be accepted.
“For years I lived a life of denial because I'm gay.”
Coming out in 2016, McGillis continues to coach elite level athletes but knows he has found his true calling.
“Since coming out, I have seen a shift in dialogue among my players,” McGillis noted.
"Homophobic language is rarely, if ever, used among my athletes.
“In seeing that shift in language, I realized I could have a much bigger impact and change sport and culture by sharing my story,” he added.
Since coming out, McGillis has received thousands of messages of support via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, even interacting with youth who share their struggle and have nowhere else to turn to for support.
He continues to share his message of inclusion by aiming to combat homophobia in the rink, on the playground, and in the halls of schools by speaking to youth.
To learn more about McGillis and his journey, follow him on Twitter @brock_mcgillis, Instagram @b_rock33, and Facebook @brockmcgillis.