Luke Prokop, a prospect for the Nashville Predators, came out as gay on Monday, becoming the first active player under an NHL contract to do so.
Prokop, 19, posted on Instagram, writing, “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.”
No other NHL player, active or retired, has publicly come out, according to ESPN.
A defenseman from Alberta, Canada, Prokop was selected by the Predators in the third round of the 2020 NHL draft. He signed a three-year contract with the team in December.
He played with the Calgary Hitmen last season. It was when that season was over that he decided to come out, Prokop told ESPN.
“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 said. “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.’”
Prokop said his team has been supportive, especially assistant general manager Brian Poile.
“He, in that moment, showed me a lot of support and told me the Predators are behind me 1,000 percent and want what's best for me and that they're proud of me during this,” Prokop told the outlet. “I remember getting off that phone call and tears just started coming from my eyes, I was so excited. And in that moment, I thought, This is what it’s going to feel like for the rest of my life. For them to show that support that they did in that moment, it felt like I can rule the world.”
Prokop said he didn’t come out due to NFL player Carl Nassib’s announcement last month, however, he did find Nassib’s words inspiring. Nassib was the first active NFL play to come out as gay.
The Predators’ Twitter account posted several messages of support for Prokop, including comments from the team’s president Sean Henry.
“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,” 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.”
The Predators also published a post to their website in support of Prokop saying his coming out took “courage, bravery, and toughness — attributes any team would want in a defenseman of their own.”
In his Instagram post, Prokop wrote that he hoped that by coming out he could help others see how open hockey is as a sport.
“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,” he wrote.