Luke Prokop, a blue chip prospect in the Nashville Predators organization, came out as gay on Monday, becoming the first active player under NHL contract to do so (watch above).
“It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life, but I could not be happier with my decision to come out,” Prokop wrote on Instagram. “From a young age I have dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams.”
The Nashville Predators organization is proud of Luke for the courage he is displaying in coming out today and we will support him unequivocally in the days, weeks, and years to come as he continues to develop as a prospect. #HockeyIsForEveryone https://t.co/43grM47dJO
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 19, 2021
While several female hockey players have come out, no NHL player – active or retired – is openly gay.
“I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “LGBTQ players, coaches, and staff can only perform at their absolute best if they live their lives as their full and true selves. We do not take the meaning and importance of this announcement lightly.”
Prokop told ESPN that he revealed his sexual orientation to Predator’s assistant general manager Brian Poile in June:
“He in that moment showed me a lot of support and told me the Predators are behind me 1,000% and want what’s best for me and that they’re proud of me during this,” Prokop said. “I remember getting off that phone call and tears just started coming from my eyes, I was so excited. And in that moment, I thought, this is what it’s going to feel like for the rest of my life. For them to show that support that they did in that moment, it felt like I can rule the world.”
Prokop said his announcement will positively impact his play:
“I’m going to lace up my skates the same. I’m going to put my jersey on the same, strap up my helmet, put on my gloves,” he said. “But I’m finally going to be able to breathe and exhale and show the world the real me. And I’m so excited to see where that can take me, not only as a hockey player but as a person as well.”
The nineteen year old is a 6’4″ defenseman from Edmonton, Alberta. He spent last season with Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, where he was an alternate captain.
Prokop’s announcement comes one month after Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, became the first openly gay active player in NFL history.
— Jacob Trouba (@JacobTrouba) July 19, 2021