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Hockey player Luke Prokop’s locker room experience revealed one year after coming out

 

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There’s a long-held belief in sports that having an openly LGBTQ player will disrupt a team’s cohesion and create a nuisance in the locker room. It’s been exactly one year since hockey player Luke Prokop, 20, came out as gay, so how’s that going for him?

In a sign of how far attitudes have shifted (there’s still a long way to go, of course), it’s going pretty damn well!

Since he made the announcement on social media on July 19, 2021 and became the first openly gay active or retired player under NHL contract, Prokop has become an inspiration to other queer athletes the world over.

Related: Meet Justine Lindsay, the NFL’s first openly trans cheerleader

He’s also had an overwhelmingly positive effect on his Edmonton Oil Kings teammates, who recently went on record with NHL.com about what it’s like having a gay player in the locker room.

“Luke inspired a lot of guys on the team,” forward Josh Williams said. “Seeing how vulnerable he was at the start to seeing him be his true self. To see him do that, it’s super brave. In the room, we treated him like any other player: He’s part of our family, he’s one of our brothers.”

Fellow forward Jalen Luypen expanded on Prokop’s influence: “We changed our mentality as a group and protected Luke at all costs.

“We just kind of fell in love with him. He’s just a great dude. … We knew if anything was said to Luke, we’d do anything for him.”

Reflecting on his major year, Prokop said: “It’s been a whirlwind. It seems like it was a long time ago, but it’s been nothing but a positive experience for me. It’s been really amazing the way my teammates have been with me, even opponents. Some would come up to me during warmup and congratulate me.”

He added that this past season was “by far the most fun year of hockey I’ve ever had.”

Related: Top soccer ref Igor Benevenuto comes out ahead of World Cup in anti-LGBTQ Qatar

“I think my confidence just kind of went through the roof after my coming out,” he said, “and it’s been really great to see my performance on the ice grow in a positive direction and be a lot more consistent than it had been in the past.”

Prokop, who helped develop the Oil Kings’ first Pride Day game earlier this year, now has his sights set on making it to an NHL team; he’s currently a prospect for the Nashville Predators.

“I want to be the first openly gay player to play in the NHL,” he said. “And I want to be that role model for kids that they can look up to, that they can go to an NHL rink, and they can watch me play and say, ‘I want to be like him when I’m older.'”

Scroll down for more pics from Prokop’s Instagram page…