Brock Weston is not one to back down from a fight on the ice -- his front teeth didn't go missing on their own, after all. But the 25-year-old college hockey player from Marion University in Font du Lac, Wisconsin did shy away from discussing his sexuality with his teammates at the time. In 2019 that changed after he became the subject of gay rumors.
"I was so upset after going out one night that I threw my phone at the wall, punched a hole in my door and was bawling uncontrollably," he wrote in an op-ed for OutSports. "I knew I could not live like that any longer."
As a result, Weston came out privately to his family, his coach, and his roommate. With their support, he was ready to tell his team.
"This is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," he said in a tearful speech to teammates in April of last year -- he was an assistant captain for the team for two years. "I don't know what to expect and I'm scared. I'll get it out of the way early and tell you all ... I'm gay." Weston went on, with a six point list of what he expected to be frequently asked questions, addressing jokes, how his teammates should address the situation with others, and more.
"I am trusting that we can use this as an opportunity to grow closer and to appreciate the struggles that we don't see and to know that we truly can leave our shit at the door of the rink and become a family when we walk into the room," he said. "We don't have to all be best friends outside of the rink, but we also don't have to talk shit"
In the letter recounting the moment, Brock wrote that he had intended to leave the locker room after delivering his words to allow their coach time to speak with the team alone, but his teammates were having none of that.
"Before I could leave, one of the guys I thought might react negatively spoke up and said, 'Hey Brock. We love you no matter what. I think we all agree and you're a part of this family and we have your back.'" he wrote. "Everyone then got up and bro-hugged and we had basically a huge team group hug."
Hockey can be a violent sport. There's a certain level of truth in the old adage about going to see a fight only to have a hockey game break out. That type of violence often breeds homophobic banter that ranges from the off-handed to truly hateful. Young, impressionable players learn to accept and engage in this type of hateful language from coaches, parents, and other players.
"Growing up as hockey players we are exposed to the locker room talk from a very young age, hearing it from our buddy's crazy dad that says whatever the fuck comes into his head with no regard," Weston recalled telling the team. "We pick it up quickly because we are little sponges. Every guy we've ever played against has been a 'loser' or 'fucking fag' or 'a cocksucker.' You get the picture."
And it would appear they did get the picture better than he had expected. Since that fateful day last April, Weston has learned that his teammates have his back off the ice as well as on it.
"People I thought would disown me or become even more cruel were among the first to voice their acceptance," he wrote.
Weston will graduate from Marian University in May with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. He would like to become a physician in sports medicine, and is awaiting to hear back if he was accepted into medical school. His parents have met his boyfriend of two years, and they all seem to enjoy each other's company. Things are going well for Weston. He understands he's not fighting alone anymore, and has some words of encouragement for other closeted athletes in facing similar circumstances.
"I understand the journey of being an athlete in situations where people may not accept you, but I hope my path can empower anyone who is struggling. I want to reassure anyone reading this that there are people out there who will love you for you."