Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop has come out as gay, becoming the first active player under contract to an NHL team to do so.
"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," Prokop, 19, said in an Instagram post.
"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 added.
High-level female hockey players, such as Olympic gold medalist Meghan Duggan, have previously come out as gay, according to the league. But until Prokop's announcement Monday, no other player signed to an NHL team — active or retired — had come out in the history of the professional league.
Prokop's team and league officials congratulated him on social media, saying the defenseman was setting an example for others.
"The Nashville Predators organization is proud of Luke for the courage he is displaying in coming out today and we will support him unequivocally in the days, weeks, and years to come as he continues to develop as a prospect," the team tweeted.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman thanked Prokop for coming out and said he hoped more professional hockey players and staff members would feel comfortable enough to do the same in the future.
"We pledge to do everything possible to ensure that Luke's experience is a welcoming and affirmative one and continue to work to ensure that any current or future NHL Player contemplating following in his trailblazing footsteps knows our League is ready to provide full support," Bettman said.
Prokop's announcement comes less than a month after Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
Originally from Edmonton, Canada, Prokop played the past four seasons with the Western Hockey League before the Predators selected him as the 73rd overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft.