Luke Prokop: Nashville Predators prospect first NHL contracted player to come out as gay
Calgary Hitmen assistant captain Luke Prokop says inspiration of NFL star Carl Nassib coming out earlier this year helped him make decision and has received backing of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
By Andy Charles
Last Updated: 19/07/21 4:48pm
Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop has become the first player on an NHL contract to come out publicly as gay.
Prokop, a 19-year-old defenseman currently on the roster of the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen, made his announcement on social media on Tuesday.
He also revealed he had been inspired by the reaction to the recent decision of Las Vegas Raiders player Carl Nassib to announce that he is gay, becoming the first NFL player to do so while on an active roster.
Prokop wrote: "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 cannot 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 improve my chances for filling my dreams."
Prokop was a third-round pick of the Predators in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and, in his fourth season, was named as an alternate captain by the Hitmen last season.
His progress towards the NHL has been set back by two seasons of play disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic but the Predators did commit Prokop to a three-year entry contract last December.
There was also support for Prokop from the Milwaukee Admirals, who could be the next team he plays for on his route to the NHL.
Their owner Harris Turer and president Jon Greenberg said in a statement: "Hockey is family and today we are proud to stand with a fellow Preds family member, prospect Luke Prokop.
"We admire the courage he has displayed in coming out. We look forward to the day when this is not news but today is not that day. We applaud Luke for his bravery and if his road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee we are here to support him. Because for Luke and everyone else, if you can play, you can play."
In an interview with ESPN, Prokop admitted some of his play had become inconsistent while he was contemplating the decision he has now made to come out publicly.
He said: "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.
"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'."