Having become one of the faces of the LGBT community in sport, Manchester star Zach Sullivan has been one of ice hockey’s biggest talking points in recent weeks.
Sullivan, an Elite Ice Hockey League veteran with more than 200 games under his belt and in his sixth EIHL season, opted to reveal his sexuality at the League’s first Pride weekend.
Sullivan became the first active professional ice hockey player to do so in the process.
Since the announcement the defenseman has made television appearances on BBC North West and ITV Granada Reports to discuss his bisexuality.
The Great British international admitted it would be an “honour, no matter how big or small” if he played a part in anyone else’s journey after a club spokesman referred to him as a “role model for young and old”.
Sullivan stated: “It was really nerve-wracking going on the BBC and ITV, I was really nervous before. Luckily one of my teammates came with me on the day to calm my nerves.
“It is a very private matter. Sexuality is a difficult thing to talk about and if I have inspired others to come out then fantastic.
“Like I said it is about other people feeling more confident and more comfortable with themselves. If I have helped one person around the world that is exactly what I intended.”
The support in the sporting world Sullivan has received has overwhelmed the Manchester Storm star but Sullivan himself admitted that he wasn’t expecting all that limelight but is thankful for the support of his teammates.
Sullivan said: “I didn’t know it (the attention) was coming, but I had a feeling it might so I feel I have to step up to the plate and answer the questions.
“I was lucky enough to have a super-supportive family that would accept me no matter what. I had some very loyal friends around me and a fantastic team around me, my teammates helped me with it so much this year.”
The lack of sportsmen who have come out in recent years have been concerning for the LGBT community.
Sullivan, who waited nine years to reveal his sexuality, believes it will take time for other athletes to do the same.
“I was never intending to call other athletes by any means,” he said.
“It has taken me nine very long years to get to this point and all I was hoping to do was to make other athletes and other fans feel a bit more comfortable and confident with themselves.
“If other athletes out there think they’re ready and want to do it, great! That’s awesome. I sincerely hope their response is as positive as mine has been.”
The former Great Britain international is an accomplished ice hockey player, having played for Team GB on five occasions.
He was also part of the team that won gold at the 2018 IIHF World Championship Division 1 to qualify for the World Championship in 2019.
Sullivan believes his announcement has brought him and his teammates closer together, but the defenseman reserved special praise for his coach Ryan Finnerty for his support.
Sullivan said: “I think most people who know me in the ice hockey world, my first two years with him in Glasgow (formerly known as Braehead Clan) were a little rocky and we didn’t see eye to eye on quite a few things.
“I think I was too young and immature to realise how good of a coach he was and how smart he is with our systems.
“Now I have matured a little bit, it is no small thing to have a coach that trusts in you and has confidence in your ability.
“I am really lucky. I think he is a fantastic coach and handles the room really well, which is really important.
“When I told him I was going to speak he had nothing but support for me and said it was fantastic. It was great and he said you should be proud of yourself. He has really helped me through this process.”