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Nashville Predators hockey player Luke Prokop celebrated his new contract with the National Hockey League this week by coming out of the closet as a gay man. No NHL player, active or retired, has ever done so before.
Prokop, 19, originally hails from Alberta, Canada. The Predators drafted him during the 2020 draft, which yielded him a three-year entry-level contract for the team. Earlier today (July 19), he took to Instagram to share his truth with the world.
“It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life, but I cannot be happier with my decision to come out,” he 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 improve my chances for filling my dreams.”
“I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community, as we work to make sure that hockey is truly for everyone,” Prokop continued. “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.”
In an interview with ESPN, Prokop elaborated on the decision to come out now.
“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 the network. “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 began coming out to friends and family in April. That included a heart-to-heart conversation with Predators 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% and want what’s best for me and that they’re proud of me during this,” Prokop recalled to 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.”
Prokop’s decision to come out has earned the support of his teammates, as well as that of Predators president and CEO 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 in a statement. “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 has yet to take to the ice with the Predators as his team; the new NHL season is slated to begin this October barring complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
When he does, we’ll be watching.