Luke Prokop has made it a point to be a leader on and off the ice with a personal goal of making hockey a more welcoming and inclusive sport.
As the first player under NHL contract to come out as gay, Prokop has been an important role model in trying to make "hockey for everyone." But in a statement released Monday night, the 20-year-old Nashville Predators prospect expressed his "disappointment" for what he called "a step back for inclusion in the NHL."
The statement comes days after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer did not take part in pregame warmups last Saturday, saying the team's decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQIA+ community runs counter to his religious beliefs. Reimer's decision followed a similar move by Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov and recent decisions by the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild to not have players wear Pride jerseys during warm-ups on Pride Nights. Writing about these decisions, Prokop said it was disheartening to see some teams and players not embrace the significance of wearing the jersey but added that he was more disappointed that the negative attention was taking away from what should be important celebrations of inclusion.
"Pride nights and pride jerseys play an important role in promoting and respecting inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community and it's disheartening to see some teams no longer wearing them or embracing their significance, while the focus of others has become about the players who aren't participating rather than the meaning of the night itself," Prokop wrote.
When Prokop came out as gay back in July of 2021, he was a trailblazer in the hockey community. His announcement received an outpouring of support on social media from fans, fellow players, teams and organizations. It also prompted a $100,000 donation from the NHL to a number of LGBTQIA+ advocacy organizations.