Former Finnish hockey star Janne Puhakka has just come out as gay. He also revealed the reason he left hockey behind at such a young age: to protect himself from homophobia.
Puhakka grew up in Espoo, Finland and began playing professional hockey at age 16. He played for the French team Rapaces de Gap until 2018, when he retired at the tender age of 23. He left the sports world to work in the fashion industry.
Puhakka’s decision to retire sparked much speculation in the world of pro sports, as hockey players typically play well into middle age. He now says that he worried he would lose his job for being gay.
“I’m sure other players fear the issue because of their jobs, as well,” Puhakka said in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat. Though other pro sports have seen increasing numbers of players coming out as LGBTQ, Puhakka says hockey is “lagging behind.”
“We wouldn’t have to go through all this if everyone could be themselves in the locker room,” he says. “I’m glad if even one junior or professional player finds something positive in this interview.”
Puhakka becomes the fourth pro hockey player in history to come out of the closet, following Danish player Jon Lee-Olsen last month. “It would be ideal if I didn’t have to talk about this,” Puhakka says of coming out. “But as long as people are silent on the subject, we must speak up.”
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