Luke Prokop, the Nashville Predators’ third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, made a historic announcement on Monday.
The 6-4 defenseman from Edmonton came out as gay, becoming the first player under NHL contract to ever do so.
The 19-year-old Prokop made the announcement on his Instagram, Monday morning. He wrote:
Hi everyone. While the past year and a half has been crazy, it has also given me the chance to find my true self. I am no longer scared to hide who I am.
Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay.
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. 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.
I wouldn’t be able to do this without my amazing family, friends, and agents – who have known this about me and met me with love and support every step of the way. I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community, as we work to make sure that hockey truly is for everyone.
I may be new to the community but I am eager to learn about the strong and resilient people who came before me and paved the way so I could be more comfortable today. This is just the beginning of my journey and I am excited to see where it takes me, both in hockey and in life.
Prokop got immediate and impassioned support from Predators players, Nashville, and the NHL.
“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,” Predators president and CEO Sean Henry said per NHL.com. “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.”
Predators players, including captain Roman Josi, had a chance to talk to Prokop before he went public.
“We’re obviously very proud of him for taking that step,” Josi said. “Our message as a team [is that] we’re obviously very supportive of him. We just reached out and told him [we’ll help with] whatever he needs and that we’re proud of him. It’s a big step for him and we fully support him.”
Josi believed that the whole league would be “extremely” welcoming.
“He just wants to be one of the guys,” he said. “Like every other teammate.”
Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will have Prokop’s back if he experiences any discrimination. Bettman called the prospect by phone.
“I told him that what he was doing was courageous and that I believed that it was important for him to have the support of the NHL family, which he will have,” Commissioner Bettman said. “And if he has any issues and problems, he has my cell phone number and he should feel free to call me.”
According to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, Prokop decided to come out in April after his season with the WHL Calgary Hitmen ended due to the pandemic. The defenseman is an alternate captain on the team. He soon told his family, teammates, and eventually Preds’ management in June.
“I was lying in bed one night, had just deleted a dating app for the fourth or fifth time, and I was extremely frustrated because I couldn’t be my true authentic self,” Prokop told ESPN. “In that moment I said, ‘Enough is enough. I’m accepting who I am. I want to live the way I want to, and I want to accept myself as a gay man.'”
Headline photo: @lukeprokop_
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