Calgary Hitmen defenceman Luke Prokop comes out as gay

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There has never been an openly gay active player in the NHL, something the 19-year-old hopes to change

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Luke Prokop hasn’t yet made his NHL debut. But in coming out as gay on Monday, the Calgary Hitmen defenceman made a more significant debut.

“Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay,” Prokop, a prospect with the Nashville Predators, wrote on his Twitter page. “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.”

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The Edmonton native told The Athletic that the decision had been something he had been wrestling with for quite some time. There has never been an openly gay active player in the NHL, something Prokop hopes to change. Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib publicly came out as the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Over the last year, he told the Predators organization that he wanted to be open and honest about his sexuality and received their full support.

“Very brave young man,” Predators GM David Poile, who selected Prokop in the third round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, told The Athletic. “It took a lot of courage. I’m proud that he did that. It’s got to be exciting for him to be taking this step.

“This is a big story and hopefully it helps and encourages others in similar situations. It’s a big deal.’’

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The hope, however, is that with Prokop coming out, announcements like this becomes far less of a deal.

“We want to move away from the notion that this is courageous, even though we recognize that it’s uncomfortable,” said Brian Kitts, co-founder and president of You Can Play, a social activism campaign dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports. “I think our first reaction is always relief. Choosing to be honest with your teammates and your family and within your industry is a significant step. It makes you can play feel good because it means Luke felt safe enough to make this move.

“I’m not sure that’s something that we could say 10 years ago. He’s a hockey player — not a gay hockey player.”

On Monday, the reactions towards Prokop’s announcement were overwhelmingly positive.

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Predators captain Roman Josi told NHL.com that “we’re obviously very proud of him for taking that step,” while NHL commissioner Gary Bettman pledged “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 his trailblazing footsteps knows our league is ready to provide full support.”

Prokop, who is 19 years old, is eligible to return to Calgary for his final year of junior. After that, he plans on working towards a career in the NHL, where he hopes he can be a role model for others in a similar position.

“I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community,” he wrote on Twitter, “as we work to make sure that hockey truly is for everyone.”

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twitter.com/Michael_Traikos

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