Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop made history Monday when he became the first-ever player under a National Hockey League contract to come out as gay, saying, “living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams.”
Prokop, 19, made the announcement in a statement on Twitter Monday morning.
The NHL quickly issued a statement in support of Prokop, with league commissioner Gary Bettman saying he hopes “these announcements can become more common in the hockey community.”
Prokop is a defenseman prospect who has not made his NHL debut, but he was drafted by Nashville in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft and signed a three-year contract with the team in December.
Prokop has spent the past four seasons playing for the Calgary Hitmen junior hockey team of the Canadian Hockey League.
“I may be new to the community, but I am eager to learn about the strong and resilient people who came before me and paved the way so I could be more comfortable today,” Prokop said.
If Prokop takes the ice for Nashville this fall, it will likely come after another historic first in major North American sports. That’s because Prokop’s announcement came less than a month after Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib came out, making him the only openly gay NFL player. Nassib featured regularly for the Raiders last season and if he remains healthy it appears very likely he’d play in the team’s opening game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 13, which will be a nationally televised Monday Night Football game on ESPN and ABC. That would make Nassib the first player to ever appear in an NFL regular season game while openly gay. The NHL and NFL for now remain the only two of the major North American sports leagues (NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB) where a player hasn’t appeared in a game while openly gay. Almost all gay athletes across major sports have waited years after they retirement to come out.
The Nashville Predators have had a fairly successful run over the past decade. The team’s made it to the NHL playoffs each of the past seven seasons, though Nashville has never won the Stanley Cup.