Predators' Prokop becomes NHL's first active player to come out as gay
Nashville Predators' defenseman Luke Prokop has announced he is gay, making him the first contracted NHL player to come out publicly.
Prokop, 19, is yet to make his debut in the NHL but marked a historic day on Monday as he made his announcement on Instagram.
"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 in his post.
"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."
Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Prokop was selected as a third-round draft pick by the Predators in the 2020 NHL Draft.
He signed a three-year deal after previously impressing for Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League.
Prokop's decision to come out follows that of Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib, who became the first openly gay active NFL player last month.
"It's been very special, talking to my friends, my family, my coaches, my agents," Prokop told The Athletic. "And them being very supportive, me coming out and being OK with who I was. ... I've noticed myself being a lot more confident on the ice.
"Being able to truly be who I am. This is the best I've ever felt in the summer and I think a large part of that is due to this process of me coming out."
Having made his decision in April during the COVID-19 enforced season break, Prokop told three of his Hitmen team-mates and hopes he can inspire others to feel comfortable coming out.
"They've [Prokop's team-mates] been really great," he added. "The part of me coming out is that I'm just one of the guys.
"Who I love and who I go home with that night, that's private and it shouldn't matter anymore. I'm just there to play hockey, I'm there to win a championship.
"If I can inspire or help make a difference to one person, then I've done my job in wanting to create change and to create an environment where it's healthy for players to come out now."
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, said in a statement on Monday that the league would support Prokop and praised him for "sharing his truth and for being so brave".
"We pledge to do everything possible to ensure that Luke's experience is a welcoming and affirmative one and continue to work to ensure that any current or future NHL player contemplating following in his trailblazing footsteps knows our League is ready to provide full support."