Luke Prokop is many things.
A son, brother, friend, teammate, Nashville Predators 2020 third-round draft pick and signee - they're all part of the description. Now, the 19-year-old defenseman wants the world to know something else, too.
With that simple declaration, Prokop has done something the hockey world rarely sees, especially in the professional ranks.
He has yet to play a single shift for the Preds, but with his announcement, the Edmonton native has already made his mark in NHL history as the first active player signed by a club to break the news. Prokop certainly won't be the last, however, and that carries immense importance for our game.
Athletes who have decided to go public in the past haven't done so for the attention - they do so for the visibility and representation, to let others know they're not alone.
Somewhere, there is a boy or girl who plays hockey but hasn't reached their full potential yet because they have a secret. Those instances are numerous, no doubt. If just one of them knows Prokop's name, reads his story and feels a connection - a greater sense of purpose - that's what truly matters.
In the past year, The Trevor Project - the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25 - has found that 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
Some of those youth are certainly hockey players and athletes.
Those numbers are way too high. Prokop's revelation will make a difference.
Ultimately, Prokop's ability on the ice - not his sexual orientation - will determine his future as a professional hockey player, and that's the way it should be.
The hope remains that one day announcements like these aren't newsworthy, that they won't even be necessary. But for now, the story remains worth writing.
Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki recently penned a piece for NashvillePredators.com expressing his honor to be an ally for the LGBTQ+ community and explaining why it matters to show support.
"But to me, true masculinity and true toughness comes when you're willing to put yourself out there in the name of acceptance and equality," Borowiecki said, in part. "To me, that's toughness."
Prokop may be the toughest of all in that regard.
He'll certainly have the support of Borowiecki, and the entire Predators organization stands with him, too. The Preds have always viewed their franchise as more than just a team. This is a family, and although Prokop has yet to meet most of the group, their support is unwavering for one of their own.
Inclusivity matters. Equality matters. Acceptance matters.
Yes, Prokop is many things, and before his 20th birthday, he's decided to live his truth in the open.
That takes courage, bravery and toughness - attributes any team would want in a defenseman of their own.