D Luke Prokop of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen became the answer to a trivia question on Monday. But what he did to gain this status was anything but trivial.
Prokop, 19, revealed on social media that he is gay.
“While the past year and a half has been crazy,” he wrote, “it has also given me the chance to find my true self. I am no longer scared to hide who I am.
“Today, I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Prokop, was selected by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the NHL’s 2020 draft. He signed a three-year entry-level contract in December. A native of Edmonton, Prokop is preparing for his fourth full season with the Hitmen, who picked him seventh overall in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft.
Prokop, an alternate captain in 2020-21, played 14 games with Calgary in 2017-18, before becoming a regular in 2018-19. In 150 regular-season games, he has seven goals and 34 assists.
The response to Prokop’s becoming the first player under NHL contract and the first WHL player to come out as gay was quick, large in volume and supportive.
If you were on social media at any point on Monday, you will have seen a steady stream of messages.
His mother tweeted her love and support, while his brother, Josh, who completed his junior career last season as Calgary’s captain, tweeted: “Words cannot describe how proud I am of you each and every day. The amount of strength and courage you have displayed is truly remarkable. Being able to play hockey with you is just a bonus on top of being your brother. Love you always.”
The onslaught of tweets included this one from the Hitmen:
“We’re so proud of you, Luke. Representation matters and your courage will help so many others. We hope that future athletes won’t need to make these sort of statements & we remain committed to promoting inclusion & acceptance in our sport & supporting the LBGTQ+ community.”
“All of SMASHVILLE is behind you, Luke,” the Predators tweeted.
Here are a few others that appeared on Twitter . . .
Pittsburgh Penguins: “Thank you . . . for sharing your truth.”
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs: “Much respect & support Luke!”
Boston Bruins: “An important day for the hockey community! We’re excited to support you, Luke, as you help show that hockey truly is for everyone.”
Roman Josi, Predators captain: “We’re obviously very proud of him for taking that step. Our message as a team (is that) we’re obviously very supportive of him . . . hockey is for everyone, and I think the organization with the Predators really lives that.”
Vancouver Canucks: “It’s a big week for hockey, but no announcement will be more important than this. It’s a groundbreaking day. Thank you Luke.”
Western Hockey League: “All of us across the WHL are incredibly proud of you, Luke. Your leadership is inspiring & your courage will help so many others in the LGBTQ+ community.”
NHLPA: “NHL players commend the courage demonstrated by Luke Prokop to disclose his truth. We know the NHL hockey community will support Luke as he strives toward his goal of playing in the NHL, and we applaud the example he is setting for those in the game of hockey and beyond.”
Calgary Flames (who own the Hitmen): “When people feel empowered to be their authentic self, the world becomes a better place. Thank you, Luke, for being such an incredible representative for the Calgary Hitmen and our community. We’re so proud that you’re a member of the CSEC family.”
You cannot overstate the importance of Prokop’s decision as an active player within the hockey world. Time will tell whether others will follow suit. But I can tell you that I never thought I would see something like this in my lifetime, especially not in junior hockey.
Hopefully we now are closer to the day when an announcement like Prokop’s won’t even be a story.
Yes, the OHL is adopting a mandatory vaccination policy in time for the 2021-22 season.
In fact, that policy already is up on the OHL website for all to read.
In a letter dated July 15 and addressed to players and parents, David Branch, the OHL commissioner, wrote:
“In order to ensure a safe and healthy return to hockey this coming season, we are implementing a mandatory vaccination policy to prevent against the transmission of COVID-19. Under this policy, we will require that players, along with all members of the OHL community, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide a proof of vaccination to the OHL at least two weeks prior to the start of training camps.”
Branch went on to write that the OHL believes “the vaccination of all OHL players, coaches, officials, billets and others involved in the league will provide a significant decrease in the likelihood of contacting COVID-19.”
He added: “There will be extremely high protection from developing severe illness from COVID-19 thereby enhancing player safety.”
Branch also pointed out that “teams will be able to travel across the Canada/US border and (it will) enhance other international travel for players with fewer restrictions and likely without quarantine requirements.”
As well, Branch wrote, that mandatory vaccinations will result in a “reduced requirement for COVID-19 testing throughout the season.”
The OHL’s mandatory vaccination policy that is posted on the league’s website states that it “includes individuals who attend training camp, practices, games or play in the OHL, and specifically includes all players, coaches, trainers, team and league staff, officials, volunteers, and billet families. Billet family members under the permitted age for vaccination by applicable Public Health Agencies are excluded.
“This policy is effective immediately, with due regard for the availability of COVID-19 vaccines.”
If someone in the above group chooses not to get vaccinated and isn’t able to provide documentation to substantiate their reason, the OHL will place that person “on an unpaid leave of absence for the duration of the pandemic or until such time that COVID-19 no longer poses a significant public health risk.”
If it is a player in that situation, he will be removed from his team’s roster until the pandemic ends or COVID-19 is deemed to no longer be a risk.
There hasn’t yet been reaction from the CHL, QMJHL or WHL, which would seem to indicate that this is strictly an OHL initiative.
But it’s hard to see one major junior league going ahead with this and the others not following suit.
Stay tuned . . .
The Kamloops Blazers say they will introduce their new general manager at a news conference today (Tuesday) at 10 a.m. PT. . . . They have needed a GM since Matt Bardsley announced on May 25 that he was leaving the organization after three years. He left with three years remaining on his contract, saying that because of travel restrictions he wanted to get his family back to the U.S. They have since relocated to Portland and Bardsley has signed on with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers as an amateur scout. . . . Bardsley had worked in Portland with the Winterhawks since 1999 before joining the Blazers. . . . There has been speculation that Blades head coach Shaun Clouston will add the GM’s role to his duties. He has been the Blazers’ head coach for two seasons. Prior to signing in Kamloops, he spent 16 seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers, the last seven as GM/head coach. . . . Earlier this month, the Everett Silvertips gave the GM’s title to head coach Dennis Williams and signed him to a contract extension. The Silvertips dumped general manager Garry Davidson after nine seasons, saying it was a cost-cutting move.
The Vancouver Giants have acquired F Payton Mount, 19, and D Cade McNelly, 20, from the Seattle Thunderbirds for a pair of draft picks — a second-rounder in 2023 and a fifth-rounder in 2024. . . . Mount, a 5-foot-8, 180-pounder from Victoria, was the 19th overall selection in the WHL’s 2017 draft. In 140 regular-season games, he has 23 goals and 45 assists. His best season was 2019-20, when he put up 14 goals and 24 assists in 62 games. . . . The 6-foot-3, 205-pound McNelly, from Westlock, Alta., has six goals and 11 assists in 121 regular-season games. . . . The Giants finished the 2020-21 season with five other 2001-born players on their roster — F Bryce Bader, F Adam Hall, D Connor Horning, G Trent Miner and F Dallon Wilton. . . . At the same time, Seattle has two 2001-born players remaining on its roster from the end of the season — D Ryan Gottfriend and F Henrik Rybinski.
The Edmonton Oil Kings would appear to have their two import players for the 2021-22 WHL season. On Monday, they announced the signing of Slovakian F Jakub Demek, who was picked in the CHL’s 2021 import draft. . . . Last season, Demek, 18, had two assists in 10 games with HC Kosice in the Slovak Extraliga, and had six goals and 15 assists in 31 games with the country’s U-18 side. . . . Earlier, the Oil Kings announced that Czech D Simon Kubicek, who turns 20 on Dec. 19, had committed to playing for them. He was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Yegor Sidorov of Belarus, whose rights were selected in the CHL’s 2021 import draft. . . . From the Blades’ news release: “Born and raised in Vitebsk, Belarus, Sidorov spent last year playing and training under his home country’s national U17 and U18 development programs. The majority of his workload came as an underage forward in the U18 ranks, dressing in 24 games and racking up 14 points (7G-7A) along with 10 penalty minutes.” . . . Saskatoon also drafted German F Moritz Elias, 17, last month but has yet to announce his signing.
The Everett Silvertips have signed Finnish F Niko Huuhtanen, the second overall selection in the CHL’s 2021 import draft. . . . Huuhtanen, 18, is ranked 49th overall among European skaters eligible for the NHL draft that is to be held Friday and Saturday. . . . In 2020-21, he had 20 goals and 14 assists in 37 games with Tappara’s U-20 side. He also had two goals and three assists for Finland at the IIHF U-18 World championship in Texas. . . . He had signed a two-year contract with the Finnish pro team Tappara on May 19. . . . The Silvertips also hold the CHL rights to Czech F Michal Gut, 19, and Finnish D Kasper Puutio, 19, both of whom finished last season on their roster although choosing to play in Europe.
The Olympic Summer Games that are to get started this week were to have been held a year ago. Thus, they were the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
After the Games were postponed by the pandemic, organizers decided to maintain the name. So . . . the Games that are being held in 2021 actually are the 2020 Games, and they have kept the 2020 logo. . . .
BTW, the opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday but competition actually gets started today (Tuesday) with a women’s softball tripleheader — Australia vs. Japan, a 5 p.m. PT; U.S. vs. Italy, 8 p.m; and Mexico vs. Canada, 11 p.m. . . .
American tennis star Coco Gauff pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday after revealing that she has tested positive for COVID-19. . . . “I am so disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for COVID and won’t be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” she tweeted. ”It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future.’’ . . .
Meanwhile, six British athletes were isolating in Tokyo after being close contacts of someone who tested positive. And the two athletes who were residents of the Olympic Village and tested positive Saturday have been identified as South African soccer players. They are believed to have had least 21 close contacts. . . . The South African team’s video analyst also tested positive. . . . As well, a men’s beach volleyball player from Czech Republic has tested positive, but hopes to be cleared in time to play on Monday. . . .
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Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre
Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street
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Or, for more information, visit right here.
JUST NOTES: The BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks have signed general manager/operations manager Brooks Christensen to a two-year contract extension. He joined the Silverbacks on June 2, 2017 as marketing manager. . . . The Silverbacks signed head coach Tyler Shattock to a two-year extension on June 29. From Salmon Arm, he took over as head coach during the 2019-20 season. . . . Larry Woo, 50, has joined the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice as an assistant coach. Woo, who is from Winnipeg, played two WHL seasons (1989-91) with the Victoria Cougars and Swift Current Broncos. With the Ice, he will work alongside head coach James Patrick, 58, who is preparing for his fifth season, and assistant coaches Josh Green and Byron Spriggs. Green, 43, has been an assistant there for two seasons and Spriggs, 27, is entering his second season. . . .
Former WHLer Mark Morrison has signed on as head coach the Manitoba Moose, the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate. Morrison, 58, spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks. Prior to that, he spent six seasons as an assistant coach in the Jets’ organization, with the St. John’s IceCaps and the Moose. During a four-season WHL career, he put up 394 points, including 159 goals, in 244 regular-season games with the Victoria Cougars. With the Moose, he replaces Pascal Vincent, who left to join the Columbus Blue Jackets as an assistant coach. . . . Darryl Williams, who played 38 games with the WHL’s Victoria Cougars in 1985-86, has joined the Philadelphia Flyers as an assistant coach. A coach for more than 20 years, he had been an assistant with the AHL’s Newfoundland Growlers. He will be rejoining Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault; the two spent nine seasons together with the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers.