"Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay."
With these empowered words on June 19, 2021, Luke Prokop became the first player under NHL contract to come out as gay.
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2020, Luke kept the secret of his sexuality private while continuing to play in the WHL for the Calgary Hitmen.
In the year that followed, his secret continued to distract him and, ultimately, began to significantly impact both his on-ice play and mental health.
No stranger to "locker room talk" and public perception, Luke worried that coming out could have a negative implication on his career and his relationships with teammates but knew that he would need to summon the courage.
With the support of friends, family, and his agents, Luke decided that to fulfill his potential, and to make the NHL he would need to share his true self with the world and wrote a beautiful and personal statement on Instagram.
The outpouring of positive responses from people in the hockey community was instantaneous but what surprised Luke most was the heartfelt support from people beyond hockey seemingly waiting for a defining moment in professional sport.
His decision would make him an international symbol of inclusivity with appearances on ESPN and Good Morning America, and, closer to home, he would begin to create a much-needed cultural shift in hockey.
Since coming out, Luke has had his best season in the WHL and has become one of Nashville’s top defensive prospects.
And the "locker room talk" has given way to very real conversations with his teammates who are genuinely interested in learning more about his personal life and the strength required to come out.
Throughout the journey, what's been the most important motivation for Luke is the ability to use his new-found platform to inspire people in the LGBTQ+ community by showing them that they can be themselves and do what they love.
Luke hopes and works toward a future in which hockey can truly be for everyone.