In an Instagram post, 19-year-old Luke Prokop, a Nashville Predators prospect, announced that he is gay.
"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 Preds drafted Prokop, a defenseman, in the third round of the 2020 draft. He signed his three-year entry-level contract with the team in December; thus, he becomes the first openly gay player under NHL contract in the league's history. He currently plays junior hockey with the Calgary Hitmen (yes, founded by a certain extremely good wrestler). He's 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, and Elite Prospects describes him as a "large human being" who is good in transition through the neutral zone.
The team issued its own statements of support from CEO Sean Henry and general manager David Poile.
"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. "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."
"Luke is a valued prospect of the Nashville Predators and we think he has a bright future," Poile said. "We want Luke to become a successful hockey player and we understand his ability to be out comfortably will help him achieve his goals on and off the ice. We are committed to ensuring nothing stands in the way of his ability. His courage is an inspiration to us and to the LGBTQ community in Nashville."
Prokop told ESPN he felt he couldn't be the best hockey player he could be unless he came out.
"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," he said. "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 said the Predators have been supportive since he first told assistant general manager Brian Poile, who told him the team is behind him "1,000 percent." Prokop told ESPN. "For them to show that support that they did in that moment, it felt like I can rule the world."
Coincidentally, last month, veteran Nashville blueliner Mark Borowiecki wrote a piece for the Predators' website about the importance of being an ally to the LGBTQ community.
"I'm a bigger guy, I'm covered in scars, I have no teeth and I like to fight, but that's only part of my identity and just part of our identity as hockey players collectively," Borowiecki wrote. "But to me, true masculinity and true toughness comes when you're willing to put yourself out there in the name of acceptance and equality," he wrote. "To me, that's toughness."