Luke Prokop, a prospect with the Nashville Predators, has become the first active player under NHL contract to openly self-identify as gay.
What Happened: Prokop is a 19-year-old, 6-foot-4 defenseman from Edmonton who was signed to a three-year entry-level contract with the Predators in December after being a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft. He played last season for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen, where he also served as an alternate captain.
In making his sexual orientation public, Prokop wrote on his Instagram page:
"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."
Prokop noted his decision came after being "extremely frustrated because I couldn't be my true authentic self," adding he didn't wish to remain closeted.
"In that moment I said, 'Enough is enough,'" he continued. "'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.'"
What Else Happened: In an interview with ESPN, Prokop said he first relayed his coming out to Predators Assistant General Manager Brian Poile, who told him "the Predators are behind me 1,000% and want what's best for me and that they're proud of me during this."
Predators President and CEO Sean Henry issued a statement declaring that 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 spoke to Prokop by phone before issuing a statement praising him.
"People, unless they can be their authentic true selves, can't be the best they can be," Bettman said. "Anybody who is connected to the NHL, whether it's front office, whether it's coaching and player development, whether it's players, we want everybody to know that whoever you are, you have a place in our family."
Photo: Courtesy of Luke Prokop's Instagram page.
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