Prokop receives outpouring of support after coming out as gay

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The 19-year-old defenseman made his announcement via a social media post.

“Hi everyone. 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.

“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.

“Thank you!”

Video: Luke Prokop comes out as first gay player in the NHL

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to Prokop on the phone and said he wanted him to know that he was there for anything he needed, and that respect for everyone was paramount.

“People, unless they can be their authentic true selves, can’t be the best they can be,” Commissioner Bettman said. “Anybody who is connected to the NHL, whether it’s front office, whether it’s coaching and player development, whether it’s players, we want everybody to know that whoever you are, you have a place in our family.”

Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin posted an Instagram story with fist bumps, hearts and a rainbow while Stars defenseman John Klingberg opted for thumbs up emojis. Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner sent out the message, “Much respect & support Luke!”

And future teammate, Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg, posted “Awesome! See you at camp Luke!!”

The messages were of pride, respect and love for Prokop, who was selected in the third round (No. 73) of the 2020 NHL Draft. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Predators on Dec. 9, and scored six points (two goals, four assists) in 15 games for Calgary of the Western Hockey League this season.

“I think it’s huge for the NHL, for the game, for the world,” New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba told NHL.com. “Obviously, you want people to be as comfortable and feel as comfortable as they can and be their true selves.

“You want people to feel comfortable coming to the rink and coming to their jobs. It’s definitely good to see. It shows a lot of courage from him and maybe kind of opens eyes for some other people to feel comfortable being themselves as well.

“We talk about how Hockey is for Everyone, we do Pride Night. They’re not just words. We want people to feel supported in the League. Hockey wants to strive for equality and acceptance for everyone. It’s been more at the forefront, what we’ve been trying to do as League.”

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie tweeted a message to the Edmonton native, writing, “Proud of you @lukeprokop_6. This will help so many going through similar journeys! All love!” with two rainbow flags. 

Tweet from @tysonbarrie: Proud of you @lukeprokop_6. This will help so many going through similar journeys! All love! 🏳������🌈🏳������🌈 https://t.co/xYkFCAyhkR

The amount of support for Prokop is what Hannah Readnour, the leader of NHL Pride, the Employee Resource Group created to promote diversity and give LGBTQ voices a platform in the League, said was so important to see from allies to the community. 

“I think the important thing to know is that small symbols of support make a huge difference, and it might be making a difference to somebody that you do not know is in the community,” Readnour said. 

It could be as simple as reposting Prokop’s Instagram post, as Kevin Fiala of Minnesota Wild, Charlie Coyle of the Boston Bruins, William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Kevin Shattenkirk of the Anaheim Ducks did, among many others. It could also be a message to Prokop, like the one Morgan Rielly of the Maple Leafs tweeted, which read, “this is going to have such an impact, good for you.”

Tweet from @mriles4: @lukeprokop_6 this is going to have such an impact, good for you!! 👏🏻 👏🏻

Rielly’s teammate, center John Tavares, in a tweet told Prokop, “I admire your courage and know your story will serve as inspiration for so many.”

Tweet from @91Tavares: @lukeprokop_6, I admire your courage and know your story will serve as inspiration for so many. https://t.co/JK7jcGDxvJ

The support didn’t come only from the NHL community, though. It came from the larger hockey community, including United States women’s national team forward Amanda Kessel and former captain Meghan Duggan, who is now the manager of player development for the New Jersey Devils. 

“Important day in the @NHL! Proud of you, @lukeprokop_6,” Duggan tweeted. 

Tweet from @mduggan10: Important day in the @NHL! Proud of you, @lukeprokop_6 https://t.co/oRyYBZpjGd

Kessel wrote, “Congrats @lukeprokop_6 Thank you for your courage and trailblazing the way!”

Tweet from @AmandaKessel28: Congrats @lukeprokop_6 Thank you for your courage and trailblazing the way! https://t.co/m5wLxVl5Vl

San Jose Sharks forward Kurtis Gabriel, who is a vocal ally of the LGBTQ community and was a finalist for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy this season, was one of the first to post his support to Prokop. 

“Game changing,” he wrote. “So proud of you @lukeprokop_6 You have SO many people with you”

Tweet from @kurtisgabriel: Game changing. So proud of you @lukeprokop_6 You have SO many people with you 💗 https://t.co/6nfgoL4UxD

It was important to them, to tell Prokop that they were behind him, that they would be there for him, and for anyone else who might be considering coming out in the future. They wanted to set the tone. 

“When you’re an athlete, people look up to you. And it kind of starts with the trickle-down effect to young kids,” Trouba said. “You watch what the professional athletes in the NHL do. It starts with us as players, us as teams in our locker rooms.”

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