Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop announced Monday (July 19) that he's gay, becoming the first active player under NHL contract to do so.
Prokop, 19, shared his announcement in a lengthy Instagram post.
"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. "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."
The NHL has never previously had a player, active or retired, come out publicly.
Prokop, a defenseman from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was selected by the Predators in the third-round of the 2020 NHL Draft and signed a third-year entry-level contract in December.
The 19-year-old spent the past season playing for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, serving as an alternate captain.
Prokop told ESPN he struggled during the past season and wanted to come out publicly as he believed it would help ease his mind and play at his full potential.
The prospect said he decided to come out in April after returning from Calgary during the conclusion of the season, which ended prematurely due to COVID-19.
"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 told ESPN. "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 he began coming out to some family members and teammates this past year, as well as Predators management in June, adding that the organization has been extremely supportive, specifically assistant general manager Brian Poile, who was the first person he talked to from the team.
"He in that moment showed me a lot of support and told me the Predators are behind me 1,000% and want what's best for me and that they're proud of me during this," Prokop told ESPN. "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."
The Predators also released an official statement supporting Prokop following his announcement on Monday:
"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," Predators president and CEO Sean 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."
Prokop said his decision to come out was made independently of Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, who came out as the NFL's first openly gay player in June, but added that the found Nassib's words, and the reaction to his announcement, inspiring.