It’s been barely a month since NHL prospect Luke Prokop came out as gay and he is already getting back to the hockey grind after participating in the Nashville Predators’ 2021 Development Camp.

Prokop, a top prospect in the Predators’ organization, would be the first openly gay NHL player in history should he make it to Nashville’s roster. Last week’s camp, which featured 26 players, was held to “educate and direct players in their pro development and conditioning programs.”

In a brief interview with John Casey of the Advocate last week, Prokop said his coming out has gone well and that he has not been the subject to any slurs since he discussed his sexuality publicly.

“Yes, obviously it’s sort of a known thing that homophobic slurs occur, not just in hockey but in a lot of sports, so my hope was that by coming out, I could have an impact on that, and help shift the language,” Prokop said. “Since I’ve come out, I’m happy to say that I haven’t encountered any slurs.”

Not hearing any slurs tracks with what Outsports has heard from other athletes after they came out. For starters, most players are not jerks and often thoughtlessly throw around slurs almost out of habit, especially in their formative years. Having an openly gay teammate makes players think twice.

In addition, Prokop has the institutional support of the NHL, the Predators and players in the league, so anyone dumb enough to utter a slur will face consequences.

Along these lines, I was struck by the reaction of Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki, who spoke with Prokop after he came out.

Borowiecki said he wasn’t sure if there was space or acceptance for an LGBTQ athlete in the NHL when he was growing up, but the 32-year-old said he has witnessed his sport move forward and called this moment a great step.

“To see this sport evolve where a young man feels comfortable enough to do this, I think it’s great,” Borowiecki said. “I think it’s the growth of our sport. I think it’s the growth of all sports in general. Sports need to be a safe space for everyone, and hockey needs to go along with that.”

Since coming out, Prokop has received overwhelming support from within and without hockey. One of the coolest examples of the latter came when Sir Elton John called him to congratulate him, reports.

“I was like, hold on, wait a second, is this for real?” Prokop said.

He took a shower, ate breakfast and was getting ready for the gym when the French number came in. The caller identified himself as Elton.

“We just had a really good conversation,” Prokop said. “He congratulated me, just asked me how the day was, how the support was, and then he thanked me for being brave and coming out. It was a really cool conversation.”

When Prokop told his mom who had called, she was ecstatic. “She started screaming, like, ‘What?’ She almost started breaking down. She was probably more excited for me than I was for myself to get that call,” Prokop said.

The 6-4, 218-pound defenseman was the Predators’ third-round draft choice in the 2020 draft and is assigned to the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey Assn. Hopefully, one day soon, Prokop will be called up to the Predators roster and we will finally have an openly gay NHL player.

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