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Calgary Hitmen's Luke Prokop battles for the puck during a game against the Regina Pats, at the Scotiabank Saddledome, in Calgary, on Oct. 14, 2018.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

A Nashville Predators prospect has come out as gay, a milestone moment for the sport of hockey as the first player signed to an NHL contract to make that declaration publicly.

Luke Prokop said he was proud to say he is gay. The 19-year-old Canadian who was a third-round pick in the 2020 draft last fall, posted his announcement to Twitter on Monday.

“It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life, but I cannot be happier with my decision to come out,” he said. “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 for filling my dreams.”

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No active NHL player has come out as gay. Prokop said he hopes his example shows that gay people are welcome in the hockey community.

Don Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, said, “We know the NHL hockey community will support Luke as he strives toward his goal of playing in the NHL, and we applaud the example he is setting for those in the game of hockey and beyond.”

This comes on the heels of Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib becoming the first active NFL player to come out in June.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman commended Prokop “for sharing his truth and for being so brave.”

“I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community,” Bettman said in a statement. “LGBTQ players, coaches and staff can only perform at their absolute best if they live their lives as their full and true selves. We do not take the meaning and importance of this announcement lightly.”

The Predators said in a statement the club 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.”

A 6-foot-4, 218-pound defenceman, Prokop could be a part of Nashville’s youth movement in the coming years. Owner Harris Turner and president Jon Greenberg of the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s top minor-league affiliate, lauded Prokop for his decision.

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Prokop is from Edmonton. He played parts of the past four seasons with Calgary in the Western Hockey League. The Calgary Hitmen said in a statement, “Representation matters, and your courage will help so many others.”

Bettman pledged the NHL will “do everything possible to ensure Luke’s experience is a welcoming and affirmative one” and work to ensure support for players who follow his path.

Prokop said the past year and a half gave him a chance to find his true self.

“I am no longer scared to hide who I am,” he said. “I may be new to the community but I’m eager to learn about the strong and resilient people who came before me and pave the way so I could be more comfortable today.”

Word of Prokop’s announcement went beyond hockey. Tennis legend Billie Jean King tweeted, “His bravery will help so many, as he seizes the power of living authentically.”

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