There’s a long-standing belief in sports that having an openly LGBTQ player will disrupt a team’s cohesion and create a nuisance in the locker room. It’s been exactly a year since hockey player Luke Prokop, 20, came out as gay, so how’s it going for him?
Sign of the evolution of mentalities (there is still a long way to go, of course), things are going pretty well!
Since making the announcement on social media on July 19, 2021, and becoming the first active or retired openly gay player under contract with the NHL, Prokop has become an inspiration to many. other gay athletes around the world.
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He’s also had a tremendously positive effect on his Edmonton Oil Kings teammates, who recently set a record with NHL.com about what it’s like to have a gay player in the dressing room.
“Luke inspired a lot of guys on the team,” forward Josh Williams said. “To see how vulnerable he was at the start to see him be his true self. To see him do that is super brave. In the room, we treated him like any other player: he’s part of our family is one of our brothers.
His compatriot Jalen Luypen developed the influence of Prokop: “We changed our mentality as a group and protected Luke at all costs.
“We just fell in love with him. He’s just a great guy. … We knew if anything was said to Luke, we would do anything for him.
Reflecting on his major year, Prokop said, “It’s been a whirlwind. It seems like a long time ago, but it has only been a positive experience for me. It’s really amazing how my teammates have been with me, even my opponents. Some came up to me during the warm-up and congratulated me.
He added that last season was “by far the most fun year of hockey I’ve ever had.”
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“I think my confidence kind of exploded after coming out,” he said, “and it’s been really great to see my performance on the ice moving in a positive direction and being much more consistent. than it had been in the past.”
Prokop, who helped develop the Oil Kings’ first Pride Day game earlier this year, now has his sights set on making an NHL team; he is currently a prospect for the Nashville Predators.
“I want to be the first openly gay player to play in the NHL,” he said. “And I want to be that role model for kids that they can look up to, that they can go to an NHL rink, and they can watch me play and say, ‘I want to be like him when I grow up. .’ ”
Scroll down for more photos from Prokop’s Instagram page…