Less than a year ago, Luke Prokop came out as gay, becoming the first top hockey prospect to do so. On Monday, Prokop became a champion after the Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Seattle Thunderbirds to win the Western Hockey League championship in six games.
It was the first title for the Oil Kings since 2014 and capped a banner year for Prokop, a defenseman who came out as gay as a member of the Nashville Predators organization last July and shined after being traded to Edmonton.
Prokop, 20, had career totals in goals (11), assists (24) and points (35) this season. In the finals, his two goals and two assists were instrumental in the Oil Kings winning Game 2 of the series. Overall, he had four goals and 12 assists in the playoffs. The Western Hockey League is the top junior league in Western Canada and is a part of the Canadian Hockey League.
As the WHL said of Prokop in a release announcing the title: “Prokop landed in Edmonton from the rival Calgary Hitmen in mid-October and went on to enjoy a career year in his hometown. The Nashville Predators prospect, and 2021-22 WHL Humanitarian of the Year, posted 11 goals and 35 points during the regular season, finishing the post-season with a League-best +23 rating.”
I liked what sports broadcaster Matt Lichtenstadter (who came out as bi in 2018) tweeted after Monday’s game:
I think I've found a new market inefficiency in hockey: if you have an openly gay player on your team, you win.— Matt Lichtenstadter (@MattsMusings1) June 14, 2022
The rest of the sport better get to fixing the culture fast, or else they're gonna be left behind... https://t.co/A1uiutyOJx
What I have loved about Prokop since he came out is the fact that is a very public advocate for LGBTQ rights, showing that one can speak up without hurting their ability to perform. That’s one reason he was Outsports 2021 Male Hero of the Year.
“It may seem annoying to some, but it means a whole lot to us,” he tweeted out at the start of Pride Month. “Being able to celebrate our strength, bravery and courage. June might by #PrideMonth but PRIDE IS ALL YEAR ROUND. Love y’all.”
We hope Prokop keeps excelling on the ice and one day soon makes it to the NHL as a barrier-breaker.