Luke Prokop, a defenseman in the Nashville Predators organization, revealed Monday he is gay. He is believed to be the first active player with an NHL contract to come out as gay.
The 19-year-old made the announcement on Instagram.
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“Hi everyone. While the past year and a half has been truly crazy, it has also given me the chance to find my true self. I am no longer sacred to hide who I am,” he wrote. “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.”
Prokop told ESPN he wanted to come out publicly because he believes it will help ease his mind and help him with his performance on the ice.
According to the outlet, no NHL player active or retired has ever come out publicly.
The Predators selected Prokop in the third round of the NHL Draft last year. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Nashville in December. He played for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
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The Predators released statements on Prokop after his announcement.
“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. 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,” President /CEO Sean Henry said.
David Poile, the team’s president of hockey operations/general manager, added: “Luke is a valued prospect of the Nashville Predators and we think he has a bright future. We want Luke to become a successful hockey player, and we understand his ability to be out comfortably will help him achieve his goals on and off the ice. We are committed to ensuring nothing stands in the way of his ability. His courage is an inspiration to us, and to the LGBTQ community in Nashville.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman thanked Prokop for “sharing his truth and for being so brave.”
“I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community. LGBTQ players, coaches, and staff can only perform at their absolute best if they live their lives as their full and true selves. We do not take the meaning and importance of this announcement lightly,” he added.
“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 his trailblazing footsteps knows our League is ready to provide full support.”
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NHL Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr said the NHL community will “support Luke as he strives toward his goal of playing in the NHL, and we applaud the example he is setting for those in the game of hockey and beyond.”