Hockey homophobia study

Researchers say a survey of players in the Australian Ice Hockey League shows homophobic language is often used but that an even higher percentage of competitors would make a gay player feel welcome.

It's an apparent contradiction the researchers call a "disconnect between perception and reality" because anti-gay comments can often be a cultural norm.

The study, conducted by the Behavioral Sciences department at Monash University in Melbourne and released Thursday, surveyed 146 players from 11 countries who play in the semi-professional league, including 56% from Australia, 25% from the U.S. and Canada, and about 12% from Europe.

More than 98% of the league's players completed the survey that examined why homophobic behaviour is common and whether education and approaches like the Pride Games in professional sports league are helping. The NHL has sponsored "Hockey Is for Everyone" events at games throughout the league, and all 31 teams now host Pride Nights.

Lead Monash researcher Erik Denison said the university's study identified "a disconnect between perception and reality, with players perceiving their team would be welcoming to a gay person -- 86% -- despite harmful and exclusionary language being used regularly (60."

"We also wanted to research hockey because it remains the only major pro sport that's never had a gay athlete come out either while as a player, or even after retirement," Denison told The Associated Press.

"This seemed odd to us because the NHL has been quite proactive. Unfortunately, and perhaps tellingly, not a single player in the anonymous surveys we conducted with hockey players identified as gay or bisexual."

Six years ago, the now-retired Jason Collins became the first openly gay man to play in the NBA. Michael Sam was the first openly gay man to be drafted by an NFL team, but he has also retired after an unsuccessful stint with the St. Louis Rams, who drafted him, and the Dallas Cowboys.

The Monash study found that homophobic and sexist language was commonly heard among the Australian hockey players, and that there was a strong connection between players using slurs and hearing teammates and coaches use them.

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