“You can be who you are and play sports. It doesn’t matter your sexuality, or your race, or your gender, or anything like that. If you have the skills and the ability to play then you should be given that chance to play.” — Luke Prokop
Today, EA Sports and UNINTERRUPTED are launching a five-part digital series called Breaking Ice, the debut of which is now live on YouTube. The series profiles “champions of diversity” in hockey — athletes who are sparking conversation and awareness while making hockey a more inclusive sport.
The series launches by placing a spotlight on Luke Prokop, the first out active NHL prospect. By coming out in an Instagram post in July, he changed the game. All signs point to Prokop, the 73rd overall pick of the 2020 Draft by the Nashville Predators, being the first out player in the NHL.
Thanks in part to his decision to come out, we also know he won’t be the last.
Luke talks about his decision to come out, what that process was like, and much more in the first episode. Even if you heard Luke’s episode on the 32 Thoughts podcast or elsewhere, this episode is worth your time. Luke’s story is important. It’s just as important today as it was in July. If you love hockey and want the sport to grow and to truly be for everyone, then this is your story, too.
In addition to the debut episode about Prokop, future episodes of Breaking Ice will profile and highlight Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ethan Bear, Saroya Tinker of the Toronto Six (PHF), and members of the Canadian and U.S. women’s national teams. The final episode will feature a roundtable panel discussion with all of the athletes from the series.
“Breaking Ice aims to celebrate incredible athletes who are transforming hockey culture to be more inclusive of the communities they represent,” said Paul Marr, Senior Director of Creative, EA SPORTS. “The stories of players like Luke Prokop, Ethan Bear and Saroya Tinker are full of inspiration driving the diversity and inclusivity of hockey, and we’re honoured to have the opportunity to bring those to life in and out of the game.”
Representation matters. Having BIPOC athletes, LBTGQIA2S+ athletes, and athletes who aren’t cis men on the ice matters. These stories are important. The first episode with Prokop certainly doesn’t disappoint. It isn’t all about sunshine and a brighter future. It confronts and discusses what Luke had to deal with in his decision to come out as an NHL prospect. He had a plan in place if no one in his life accepted him for who he was, a plan to move to the States with a partner and leave hockey, his friends, and his family behind. Remember, Prokop is 19. Let that idea sink in for a moment, especially if you are, by default, cynical about how essential inclusion and diversity are in hockey and sports.
“This is a big deal, Luke Prokop is a big deal,” Brian Burke, president of the Pittsburgh Penguins, comments in the Prokop episode. “Every time one of these guys steps forwards, every pioneer, it adds armament to these kids. It gives them a wall to stand behind (so they) can face the music more easily and can say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be a hockey player. And I’m gay, and that’s fine.’”
Needless to say, we’ve seen far too many examples of what’s wrong with hockey culture in just the last few months. Hockey has to be better and we, as a community, have to play our part in making it better. One can hope that players who are blazing the trail for others like Prokop, Bear, Tinker, and others who put a spotlight on diversity and inclusion in the game will help make that happen.