Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop made history on Monday when he became the first active player with an NHL contract to come out as gay. The 19-year old defenseman revealed the news in an Instagram post on his personal account.
"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," Prokop 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 and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams."
The defenseman, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team in December, told ESPN's Emily Kaplan that he made the decision in April to come out publicly. Prokop wanted to be who he was and thought it would help his career.
"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.'"
The Predators showed support for Prokop once he told them that he was coming out publicly.
"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," Predators president and CEO Sean Henry said. "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."
The NHL and league commissioner Gary Bettman also made a statement supporting Prokop.
"I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community," Bettman said. "LGBTQ players, coaches, and staff can only perform at their absolute best if they live their lives as their full and true selves. We do not take the meaning and importance of this announcement lightly."
Last season, the 6'4 defenseman played for the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League and served as an assistant captain.
Prokop's announcement comes after Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib in June became the first ever active NFL player to come out as gay.