Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop said in an Instagram post on Monday that he is gay.
The 19-year-old defenseman is the first player under contract to an NHL team to publicly come out as gay.
“Today, I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay,” Prokop wrote.
“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.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement the league pledged “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.”
A third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Prokop signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Predators in December. He was an alternate captain for the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League last season.
“I’m finally going to be able to breathe and exhale and show the world the real me,” he said in a TV interview with ESPN on Monday.
Prokop said he made the decision to go public in April. Prokov said he informed the Predators and general manager David Poile in a phone call.
“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 told The Athletic he cried tears of joy when the call with the Predators ended with the team telling him they were proud of him and would have his back.
“Very brave young man,” Poile told The Athletic. “It took a lot of courage. I’m proud that he did that. It’s got to be exciting for him to be taking this step. This is a big story and hopefully it helps and encourages others in similar situations. It’s a big deal.”
–Field Level Media