Luke Prokop hopeful his coming out leads to ‘lasting change’ in hockey

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When Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop steps on to the ice for his first game of the 2021-22 season, he will feel free.

“It will be emotional, for sure. It’ll be my first game being openly public about my sexuality, and me being gay,” Prokop told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. “I’m gonna say it probably might be my best game of my career, just because I’m gonna feel so free and so strong and feel like I can take on the world.”

Earlier Monday, Prokop came out publicly as a gay man. He made the personal announcement via social media.

The Calgary Hitmen defenceman was selected by Nashville last fall in the third round of the 2020 draft, 73rd overall. The club signed him to a three-year entry-level deal in December. During his Sportsnet interview, Prokop opened up about his interactions with the NHL franchise and the support he’s felt since coming out to the organization’s management.

“That feeling of having Nashville support me was something I hadn’t felt before. Honestly, it felt like I could do anything,” Prokop said. “Having that support from them, knowing that they still support me and believe in me and just want to treat me as me, and as a hockey player.”

Though he was born and raised in Edmonton, Prokop actually grew up a Predators fan. The six-foot-four, smooth-skating defenceman tried to model his game after that of his hockey idol, former Nashville rearguard Shea Weber.

“They drafted me as a hockey player … they didn’t know beforehand that I was gay,” he said of the Predators. “And to know that they still believe in me, even though there’s some people in the world that don’t accept this, or think it’s a choice. It was an amazing feeling.”

Since making his WHL debut in 2017-18 with a 14-game stint in Calgary, Prokop has been a mainstay on the Hitmen’s blue line the past three seasons and has contributed offensively, too. After putting up career-highs in goals (four), assists (19) and points (23) through 59 games in 2019-20, Prokop put up a pair of goals and six points in 15 games of the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign. This season, he also took on a leadership role as an alternate captain. Older brother Josh serves as the team’s captain.

No active NHL player has ever come out as openly gay. During Prokop’s interview, he opened up about the importance of coming out within the sport of hockey – with respect to both what it means to him personally, and what it could mean for others.

“When I had talked to my friends and my family and my agents about this, they always were just worrying about hockey and how I wanted to do it … if I was going to come out, if I was going to keep it private,” Prokop said. “And the one thing I had always told them is that, having a career with three Stanley Cups and a Norris Trophy and all these records is amazing, and something that, you know, I’m hopeful and wanting to do. But I would rather play one game or two games in the NHL and create a lasting difference or a lasting change – have some sort of impact on the game that goes beyond the ice.

“So, that’s something that kind of has been my goal and is kind of one of the main reasons in why I want to come out in hockey.”

The full interview will be posted later on Monday.

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