Nashville Predators’ Luke Prokop has become the first active NHL player signed by a club to come out as gay.
The Canadian, 19, who is yet to play for Nashville, was their third-round draft pick in 2020.
In a statement on social media, Prokop said: “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.”
The defenceman added: “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 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 comfortable today. This is just the beginning of my journey and I am excited to see where it takes me, both in hockey and life.”
The Nashville Predators president/chief executive Sean Henry said the organisation was “proud” of Prokop and would “support him unequivocally in the days, weeks, and years to come”.
Their president of hockey operations/general manager David Poile added: “We understand his ability to be out comfortably will help him achieve his goals on and off the ice,
“We are committed to ensuring nothing stands in the way of his ability. His courage is an inspiration to us, and to the LGBTQ community in Nashville.”
Prokop is the fourth professional ice hockey player to publicly announce he is gay, after America’s Brendan Burke, who played for the RedHawks, Sweden’s Lars Peter Karlsson and Denmark’s Jon-Lee Olsen.
In June, Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
Former Leeds United, LA Galaxy and USA footballer Robbie Rogers was the first openly gay man to play in one of America’s big five sports leagues after he came out in February 2013.