Photo: Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen
Nashville Predators prospect and WHL’s Calgary Hitman defenseman Luke Prokop became the first player under contract with an NHL club to publicly announce that he is gay on Monday morning via Twitter.
— luke prokop (@lukeprokop_6) July 19, 2021
In an interview with The Athletic, Predators GM David Poile described Prokop, the 73rd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, as a “Very brave young man. 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.’’
Prokop, 19, said that he decided to reveal his true identity at this time because “I don’t want to have to walk into the gym or to the arena or just to practice, and keep thinking, ‘Who knows? Who doesn’t?’ This is who I am.”
“I don’t really have to deal with that anymore. I feel a lot more free. I can just go on the ice and be myself,” Prokop said.
Prokop decided to tell his family that he is gay while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was just in a real place of comfort with being who I was,” said Prokop. “I felt I was able to start telling people I was gay and that people would be OK with it.’’
His older sister, Alanna, was the first person Prokop told. His mom, Nicole, and close friends were the next people he broke the news to.
“The most difficult one was definitely my brother and my dad,’’ Prokop said. “Just because I played hockey with Josh and I didn’t know how he would react, especially being his teammate for two years in Calgary. And with my dad, he’s a very type A person, and you just never know what you’re going to get from people.”
“But they’ve been so supportive and very loving and caring in trying to help me with what I want to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation with me coming out.’’
His brother said that “It meant a great deal to me that Luke was able to confide in me and be comfortable enough to come out to me. Being his teammate is something we both will cherish forever, but he will always be my brother first and I can’t express enough how much it means to me and our relationship that he was able to communicate his true self to me.”
"I would rather play one game or two games in the NHL and create a lasting difference or a lasting change…"@lukeprokop_6 joined @JeffMarek & @FriedgeHNIC to discuss his decision on openly coming out as gay in hockey.
Catch the full 31 Thoughts podcast today at 3pm ET. pic.twitter.com/DKdYixEdmy
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 19, 2021
Al Prokop, Luke’s father, told The Athletic that “And then you turn to a little bit of sadness in the sense of being sad for Luke that he’s had to deal with this himself for so long, and not being there to help him.”
The Predators, NHL Players’ Association, NHL released statements regarding Prokop on Monday morning:
All of SMASHVILLE is behind you, Luke.
President/CEO Sean Henry and President of Hockey Operations/GM David Poile’s statements ⤵️
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 19, 2021
— NHL (@NHL) July 19, 2021
NHLPA statement from Executive Director Don Fehr in support of Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop who has shared his truth. pic.twitter.com/rfOI4cPwds
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) July 19, 2021
By Harrison Brown