Luke Prokop of the Nashville Predators franchise has become the first active NHL player, signed by a club, to come out as gay.
The 19-year-old Canadian, a third-round draft pick yet to play for his new team, has been offered 'unequivocal support' by Nashville's president/chief executive Sean Henry.
Prokop announced the news at the start of an emotional interview with ESPN on Monday.
"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," said Prokop.
"Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay."
He 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."
"I'm finally gonna be able to breathe and exhale and show the world the real me."
Luke Prokop talks with @emilymkaplan after he became the first active player under NHL contract to come out as gay. pic.twitter.com/JNOqUIYAsz
— ESPN (@espn) July 19, 2021
Nashville's president of hockey operations/general manager David Poile was also effusive in his support of Prokop.
"We understand his ability to be out comfortably will help him achieve his goals on and off the ice," said Poile.
"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."
— NHL (@NHL) July 19, 2021