Calgary Hitmen defenceman Luke Prokop has officially made history.
The 19-year-old announced Monday that he is gay, becoming the first player signed to an NHL contract to do so.
“While the past year and a half has been crazy, it has also given me the chance to find my true self. I am no longer scared to hide who I am,” Prokop said in a social media post.
“Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay.
“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.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this without my amazing family, friends, and agents – who have known this about me and met me with love and support every step of the way. I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community, as we work to make sure that hockey truly is for everyone.
“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. This is just the beginning of my journey and I am excited to see where it takes me, both in hockey and in life.
The outpouring of support has gone viral.
Since making the post earlier this morning, Prokop’s Twitter and Instagram mentions have been flooded with love and support from fellow players, fans and all 32 teams.
According to Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com, league commissioner Gary Bettman personally reached out, telling Prokop that he “will always have a place in our family.”
“People, unless they can be their authentic true selves, can’t be the best they can be,” Bettman said. “I told him that what he was doing was courageous and that I believed that it was important for him to have the support of the NHL family, which he will have. And if he has any issues and problems, he has my cell phone number and he should feel free to call me.”
Prokop was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the third round, 73rd overall, in 2020. He’s been with the Hitmen for the past four years, recording seven goals and 41 points in 150 career games. The Edmonton native told Pierre LeBrun at The Athletic that he has already spoken with Predators general manager David Poile, as well as a number of other league executives, including Brian Burke and his son Patrick – founder of the acclaimed You Can Play Program, which aims to eradicate homophobia in sports.
The initiative was created to honour the legacy, the courage, of Brian’s youngest son, Brendan, who came out as gay while playing for the Miami University RedHawks, but died tragically in a car accident in 2010.
“You feel Brendan’s fingerprints all over this,” Patrick Burke told LeBrun. “Just like some kid coming out in 10 years will say, ‘I remember when Luke Prokop did.'”
Poile, meanwhile, said Prokop was a “brave young man,” adding the gravity of this moment in our sport’s history is a “big deal.”
Indeed, it is.
No other NHL player – active or not – has ever come out as gay. Representation matters. Inclusivity matters. Equality and acceptance matter.
And with the love and support from the community behind him, Prokop can now live free, inspire others, and focus on fulfilling his dreams of becoming a pro hockey player.
Thank you, Luke, for being such an incredible representative for the Calgary Hitmen and our community. We’re so proud that you’re a member of the CSEC family.