<p>“Hockey is truly for everyone,” the 19-year-old  Nashville Predators prospect wrote.</p>

“Hockey is truly for everyone,” the 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect wrote.

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Hockey player Luke Prokop has come out as gay, making him the first player under contract with the National Hockey League to publicly do so.

The 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect shared the announcement via social media, posting to both Instagram and Twitter. “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,” he wrote. “Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone I am gay.”

“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,” he continued. “I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the community, as we work to make sure that hockey truly is for everyone.

Per ESPN, no NHL player — active or retired — has publicly come out as gay, until Prokop’s announcement.

“I was lying in bed one night, had just deleted a dating app for the fourth or fifth time, and I was extremely frustrated because I couldn’t be my true authentic self,” Prokop told the sports publication. “In that moment I said, ‘Enough is enough. I’m accepting who I am. I want to live the way I want to, and I want to accept myself as a gay man.’”

The NHL has since responded with encouraging words of support, as well as spoken with Prokop directly. Per NHL.com, the League’s Commissioner, Gary Bettman, had already spoken with Prokop via telephone. “People, unless they can be their authentic true selves, can’t be the best they can be,” Bettman said. ”Anybody who is connected to the NHL, whether it’s front office, whether it’s coaching and player development, whether it’s players, we want everybody to know that whoever you are, you have a place in our family.”

Nashville Predators Captain Roman Josi expressed a similar sentiment on behalf of himself and the team, telling NHL.com that they are “obviously very proud of him for taking that step.”

“Our message as a team [is that] we’re obviously very supportive of him. We just reached out and told him [we’ll help with] whatever he needs and that we’re proud of him. It’s a big step for him, and we fully support him.”

Several other athletes and teams have expressed their support via Twitter, as well.

Congratulations to Luke Prokop!

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