Luke Prokop is making history as the first active player under contract to an NHL team to come out as gay.
The 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect revealed the news in a lengthy statement shared to Instagram on Monday, writing, "While the past year and a half has been crazy, it has also given me the chance to find my true self."
"I am no longer scared to hide who I am. Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay," Prokop exclaimed. "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."
"I wouldn't be able to do this without my amazing family, friends, and agents -- who have known this about me and met me with love and support every step of the way," he continued. "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 truly is for everyone ... this is just the beginning of my journey and I am excited to see where it takes me, both in hockey and in life."
The Predators selected Prokop in the third round of the 2020 NHL draft, with the 6-foot-4 defenseman signing a three-year entry-level contract with the team back in December. In a new interview with ESPN, Prokop admitted that he was struggling with his identity last season, while playing and serving as an alternate captain for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He wanted to come out publicly, he says, to help "ease his mind and allow him to play his best hockey."
"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 explained. "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 ESPN that the Predators have been extremely supportive of him ever since he first came out to management in June. He reveals that assistant general manager Brian Poile was the first person from the team he talked to about his decision to publicly come out as gay.
"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 of his conversation with Poile. "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."
Additionally, Nashville captain Roman Jositold NHL.com that the team is "very proud" of Prokop. "Our message as a team [is that] we're obviously very supportive of him," he 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."
"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," Sean Henry, president and CEO of the Predators, added 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."
Prior to Prokop's announcement, no NHL player (active or retired) had come out publicly. The news comes nearly a month after Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib came out as gay, becoming the first openly gay active NFL player in history.
"Just wanted to take a quick moment and say that I'm gay," Nassib revealed in a video shared to Instagram on June 21. "I've been wanting to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable to get it off my chest."
"I really have the best life," he added. "I got the best family, friends and job I could ask for. I'm a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know that I'm really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important."