Nashville Predators defenceman Luke Prokop has become the first active National Hockey League player to publicly come out as gay.
The 19-year-old, yet to make his NHL debut, made the announcement on his Instagram account, saying he was “no longer scared to hide who I am”.
“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 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 of fulfilling my dreams.”
Prokop, from Edmonton in Canada was selected by the Predators in the third round of the 2020 NHL draft and signed a three-year entry-level contract in December.
Last season he played for Western Hockey League side Calgary Hitmen and was an alternate captain.
Prokop said he could not have made the decision without the support of his “amazing family, friends and agents”.
The NHL have also been quick to offer their full support and admiration for Prokop.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Twitter: “On behalf of the National Hockey League, we are proud of Luke Prokop for (Monday’s) announcement and I would like to thank him for sharing his truth and for being so brave.
“I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community. LGBTQ players and staff can only perform at their absolute best if they live their lives as their full and true selves.”
Bettman added: “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.”
Prokop’s announcement comes a month after defensive lineman Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders became the first active NFL player to publicly come out.
The 28-year-old made his announcement in a video on his Instagram account.
Defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay ahead of the NFL draft in 2014 and was subsequently drafted by the St Louis Rams in the seventh round but was cut from their roster before the season began.
He also spent time with the Dallas Cowboys but did not appear in an NFL game. He later played for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.
Former LA Galaxy wide man and United States international Robbie Rogers was the first openly gay man to play in one of America’s big five sports leagues when he came out in February 2013. NBA centre Jason Collins came out later that year and had a short spell with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014.