Luke Prokop, a minor league hockey player with NHL aspirations, publicly came out Monday as a gay man in an interview with The Athletic.
If Prokop, 19, eventually makes an NHL roster, he will be the first active openly gay player in league history.
"It's been very special, talking to my friends, my family, my coaches, my agents," Prokop told The Athletic. "And them being very supportive, me coming out and being OK with who I was. I think it's been translating a lot into my summer and my summer training. I've noticed myself being a lot more confident on the ice...being able to truly be who I am. This is the best I've ever felt in the summer and I think a large part of that is due to this process of me coming out."
Prokop, a defenseman, was drafted in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators. He told The Athletic that he first came out to family in friends in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, in March 2020.
"I was just in a real place of comfort with being who I was," Prokop told The Athletic. "I felt I was able to start telling people I was gay and that people would be OK with it."
He later informed Nashville's front office staff, including Predators general manager David Poile.
All of SMASHVILLE is behind you, Luke.— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 19, 2021
President/CEO Sean Henry and President of Hockey Operations/GM David Poile's statements ⤵️
>> https://t.co/CWSxaNoDz5 pic.twitter.com/1IJBv6enSe
"I can't thank them enough for supporting me," Prokop told The Athletic.
Prokop also said he spoke with and received guidance Bayne Pettinger, a former player agent who came out last year.
"The Nashville Predator 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 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."
"We pledge 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 in his trailblazing footsteps knows our League is ready to provide full support," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
Statement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Luke Prokop’s (@lukeprokop_6) decision to publicly come out as gay: pic.twitter.com/4S7rWI872W— NHL (@NHL) July 19, 2021
Prokop follows in the footsteps of Brock McGillis, who in 2016 became the first former professional hockey player to come out as gay,
Prokop's announcement also comes weeks after Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib publicly announced that he is gay, becoming the first-ever active and openly gay NFL player.