July 19 (UPI) -- Luke Prokop became the first active player on an NHL contract to come out as gay Monday. The Nashville Predators prospect made the announcement on social media.
"While the past year and a half has been crazy, it has also given me the chance to find my true self," Prokop wrote. "I am no longer scared to hide who I am."
Prokop, 19, wrote that he "couldn't be happier" with his decision to come out. The 6-foot-4 defenseman joined the Predators through the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft.
No active or retired NHL players have come out publicly.
"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 wrote.
Prokop spent last season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Predators in December.
The Predators and the NHL released statements Monday supporting Prokop.
"On behalf of the NHL, we are proud of Luke Prokop for today's announcement and I would like to thank him for sharing his truth and for being so brave," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
"I share his hope that these announcements can become more common in the hockey community. 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.
"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 his trailblazing footsteps knows our League is ready to provide full support."