Mediaplanet chatted with Luke Prokop, Canadian ice hockey professional, on coming out as the first gay player signed to the NHL.
How does it feel to be the first hockey player signed to the NHL to come out as gay?
It’s a little shocking to think hockey has been around for so long and that there’s no one else who has come out.
But it comes with a lot of pressure. People ask me how I deal with it, and I think it’s just my personality — it’s who I am. I’ve always wanted to help people in any way I can, even if it’s just responding to a message on social media.
What gave you the courage to live your truth and share it with the world?
During the pandemic and once my season finished, it gave me a lot of time to discover who I was. I knew I was gay my whole life, but I never really understood what it meant until I was around 14 or 15. I came out to my family first, and they were amazing and super supportive. I later sat down with my agents in June 2020, and they were super supportive as well, and supported any decision I made.
During my bubble season in Calgary, it felt like something was bothering me my whole time there. A few days after I came home from Calgary, I sat down with my agent and finally decided I wanted to come out publicly. I was okay with stepping away from the game if it didn’t accept or support me, which made me realize it was the right time to share this publicly.
What are some ways you think organizations can better support their athletes to be their authentic selves?
I think continuing to have these types of conversations, even in the dressing room, whether team-mandated or not, is important. For the most part, I feel like my generation is very receptive, and they don’t care what race you are, what your sexual orientation is, and what your beliefs are. At the end of the day, they’re your teammates and brothers who all have a common goal: winning a championship.
What is one piece of advice you would give to athletes wanting to come out?
I would tell people to take their time. Everyone is different, and not everyone has the same story, background, or support system that I gratefully have. I told my sister in April 2020 and my friends in January 2021, so it took me some time and courage to share it with the most important people in my life. One message I want to continue to share is how positive my support and reactions were after I publicly came out.