- The Washington Times - Monday, July 19, 2021

Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop on Monday became the first active player on an NHL contract to come out as gay.

Prokop, a 19-year-old defenseman, issued a statement on social media.

“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,” he wrote in the statement.

Prokop added that he hopes his announcement “will help others see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community.”

The Edmonton, Alberta, native was selected in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft by the Predators. He signed a three-year contract with Nashville in December.

Prokop’s announcement comes about a month after Carl Nassib, the Las Vegas Raiders defensive end, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay.

After Prokop made his announcement, it was met with positive reaction from those in the hockey community.

Prokop, who played with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League last season, was an alternate captain. WHL Commissioner Ron Robison shared his support for Prokop in a statement.

“The entire WHL community is proud of Luke for sharing his true self today,” Robison said. “We commend and recognize Luke for courageously standing as a role model for other young hockey players and people in the LGBTQ+ community, especially those within and close to the WHL.”

NHL Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr said he applauds the example Prokop set for others in the sport.

“NHL players commend the courage demonstrated by Luke Prokop to disclose his truth,” Fehr said in a statement on social media. “Luke’s announcement also reminds us how important it is to ensure a welcoming and safe environment for all who play the game. Hockey is for everyone, including the LGBTQ+ community.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman thanked Prokop for “being so brave” in making his announcement.

“I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community,” Bettman said in a statement on social media. “LGBTQ players, coaches and staff can only perform at their absolute best if they live their lives as their full true selves.”

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