SAINT JOHN, NB | By openly displaying his homosexuality on July 19, 2021, by becoming the first player under contract with an NHL team to do so, Luke Prokop knew his life would change. However, he never suspected she would change that much.
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The story of the Edmonton Oil Kings defender and potential Nashville Predators candidate has gone around the world and has become something of a role model for many young hockey players.
“I had no idea of the impact it was going to have since no one had done it before me. The reaction was much more positive than I expected. I get messages from people all over the planet thanking me. This week in particular, young people see me on television. So the number of messages I get has increased a lot, “said the 6’5” 220-pound giant.
Since then, several people have followed in Prokop’s footsteps. This was particularly the case with my colleague Guillaume Lepage, of NHL.com who, inspired by the approach of the Alberta defender, also decided to show his homosexuality after ten years of reflection.
“That was my goal in doing what I did,” said Prokop. Seeing such stories means a lot to me. On the days when I feel a little less well, I remember this kind of story and it refocuses me on the reasons that push me to continue what I do. I want to keep showing people that it’s important to feel good about yourself and do what you love. “
For Prokop, July 19 2021 will have been in a sense the first day of his new life.
“I feel safer and more comfortable with my teammates, friends and family. I don’t care what people think anymore. I think this is the main reason that brought me out. This year it has helped me a lot in blocking out external noises. It allowed me to go into the arena, to play my style knowing that I had the support of the guys. “
HELP FROM BROCK McGILLIS
Before going public last July, Prokop spent two months chatting with Brock McGillis. A former Ontario Hockey League goalkeeper, he was the first hockey player to publicly show his homosexuality. He was November 2016. Since then, he has actively campaigned to change the hockey culture.
“It was very important to me. Having someone to talk to, especially when it comes to the media, was a great help. He was a great mentor, “said Prokop.
McGillis was also in Saint-Jean for the Memorial Cup on Wednesday. She gave a talk about his experience of him, then had dinner with Prokop’s family before meeting Luke for the first time, in person, in the evening.
For McGillis, Prokop’s gesture is a step in the right direction. But there is still a lot to do.
“We have to keep talking about it. We need to go to a place where more young people can dream of playing hockey even if they are part of the LGBTQ + community and where we will see more Luke Prokop on the ice, ”she said.
For the Toronto native, the starting point is to change the homophobic language commonly used in the locker room and on the dance floor.
“Today’s youth are much more exposed to social media. I think in theory they have moved on to issues of sexual orientation. However, the language and culture in the locker room haven’t changed as fast as their thoughts, ”said McGillis.
This is why he hopes for other testimonies such as those of Prokop to continue fueling the discussions.
“There are players in the NHL who are gay,” he said. I recently went to a school in Ontario and a survey showed that 25% of its students declared themselves LGBTQ +. They look like the numbers you see everywhere. It is therefore impossible that Luke is the only player on an NHL contract who is gay. “
“My dream is to get to a point where the work I do no longer exists,” continued McGillis. It’s challenging because it means there are people who suffer in the very sport they love. I still get a lot of messages from young people who gave up because they were bullied and harassed. I hope someday we will live in a world where everyone can be themselves and not have to hide. A world where everyone can play the sport they love and just be a human being. ”