Oil Kings' Luke Prokop named 2022 WHL Humanitarian of the Year

Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Luke Prokop, who last summer became the first openly gay hockey player signed to an NHL contract, has been named the 2022 WHL Humanitarian of the Year, the league announced Wednesday.

Prokop, drafted 73rd overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2020 draft, came out as gay via an Instagram post on his personal account in 2021. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to represent and advocate for the LGBTQ2S+ community in hockey, including helping to organize the Oil Kings' first Pride Day game.

After making history as the first openly gay player signed to an NHL contract, Prokop said the reaction from the hockey community was overwhelmingly positive, including messages of support from the Oil Kings, the Predators, his teammates, and from across the NHL.

His impact extended beyond the hockey community, eventually reaching Elton John, who phoned Prokop personally.

“That’s what everyone wants, is a positive reaction and support,” Prokop told Sportsnet's Kristina Rutherford earlier this year. “I just never imagined it to be that big.”

The 19-year-old has acknowledged his position as a role model for LGBTQ2S+ players looking to further their careers, although admitted to Rutherford that the pressure can sometimes be staggering. Nevertheless, he has committed to spending his time off the ice responding to direct messages he receives and learning how best to support those in similar situations.

He continues to use his Instagram page — on which he's amassed nearly 40,000 followers — to advocate for further LGBTQ2S+ representation in hockey, including partnering with EA Sports and Uninterrupted Canada to promote inclusivity.

Through his 'Shots for Impact' initiative, Prokop also pledged to donate $10 to Kids Help Phone for each shot on net he registered during his first regular season with the Oil Kings, which the Oil Kings and the Predators matched, and raised over $4,000 for the organization.

On the ice, Prokop has been an important part of the Oil Kings throughout the regular season, scoring 11 goals and tallying 35 points in 58 games. In the playoffs, he scored two goals and totalled 10 points with a league-best plus-18 rating, contributing to an appearance in the WHL Championship Series for the Oil Kings, where they will battle the Seattle Thunderbirds for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

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