Luke Prokop, who has never played in an NHL game, made league history Monday anyway.
The 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect did so with three words: “I am gay.”
Prokop delivered his message in a tweet and Instagram post Monday morning, making him the first player under league contract to come out.
“I am no longer scared to hide who I am,” the defenseman wrote. “Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay.”
Prokop, a third-round pick by the Predators in 2020, made his sexuality public almost a month after Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to publicly announce he is gay.
Prokop’s news was no surprise to the Predators. He told The Athletic he informed front office personnel, including general manager David Poile, more than a year ago.
Prokop wrote of his childhood dreams of becoming an NHL player and said “living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams.”
He said he hopes coming out will help others see “that gay people are welcome in the hockey community” while he does his part to “make sure hockey truly is for everyone.”
Various players throughout the league tweeted support of Prokop, something he said Nashville has given him from the jump.
“That feeling of having Nashville support me was something I hadn’t felt before,” he told Sportsnet.
“We want Luke to become a successful hockey player, and we understand his ability to be out comfortably will help him achieve his goals on and off the ice,” Poile said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring nothing stands in the way of his ability. His courage is an inspiration to us, and to the LGBTQ community in Nashville.
Team president and CEO Sean Henry echoed Poile’s words, saying the organization “is proud” of Prokop’s courage.
”We will support him unequivocally in the days, weeks, and years to come,” Henry said. “A long-stated goal in our organization is equality for all, including the LGBTQ community, and it is important that Luke feels comfortable and part of an inclusive environment as he moves forward in his career.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also weighed in from the league’s perspective.
“I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community,” Bettman said in a statement. “We do not take the meaning and importance of this announcement lightly.”
Prokop said he began the process of coming out in March 2020, telling some within the NHL he is gay.
The 6-foot-4, 221-pound defenseman from Edmonton played for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen the last four seasons.
He told The Athletic the reason he chose to go public now was made purely based on not wanting to feel like he has to wonder who knows and who doesn’t. He also said he doesn’t expect — nor does he want — his sexuality to be a “big topic of conversation.”
“Here’s who I am,” he told The Athletic. “It gets it off my chest.”
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