NHL, teams applaud Luke Prokop, vow support

Feb 28, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; General view of Bridgestone Arena before the game between the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Messages of support poured in Monday for Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop, who became the first player under contract to an NHL team to announce he is gay.

“Today, I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay,” Prokop, a 19-year-old defenseman from Canada, shared Monday on Instagram.

It didn’t take long for the NHL community to reach out to Prokop via social media and press releases to offer words of respect and encouragement. Among the first were the Predators.

“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,” the franchise’s statement said.

Predators captain Roman Josi shared a statement on behalf of the players.

“Our message as a team (is that) we’re obviously very supportive of him,” Josi said. “We just reached out and told him (we’ll help with) whatever he needs and that we’re proud of him. It’s a big step for him and we fully support him.”

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.

The Hitmen also had a message for Prokop.

“We’re so proud of you, Luke. Representation matters and your courage will help so many others,” the team shared. “We hope that future athletes won’t need to make these sort of statements & we remain committed to promoting inclusion & acceptance in our sport & supporting the LBGTQ+ community.”

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.”

Even Predators’ opponents were quick to support Prokop.

From the Arizona Coyotes: “The Coyotes are proud of your courage to show us all exactly who you are so that others can do the same moving forward. Thank you for sharing your whole, authentic self with us. We all love you for it and can’t wait to see all that you do moving forward.”

From the Boston Bruins: “An important day for the hockey community! We’re excited to support you, Luke, as you help show that hockey truly is for everyone.”

From the Pittsburgh Penguins: “Thank you @lukeprokop_6 for sharing your truth. The hockey community is a better place when everyone can show their authentic selves”

From the Calgary Flames: “When people feel empowered to be their authentic self, the world becomes a better place. Thank you, Luke, for being such an incredible representative for the Calgary Hitmen and our community.”

Penguins forward Jason Zucker sent his personal good wishes, posting to Twitter: “Congratulations, Luke. Proud of you for sharing your story and I’m glad you’re a part of the hockey community! I’ll be rooting for you the rest of the way.”

Prokop becomes the second pro athlete to make such an announcement recently. In June, defensive end Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders became the first active NFL player to announce he is gay.

–Field Level Media