Gabriel’s stick on his career-christening goal incorporated the rainbow-colored Pride Tape to acknowledge and support the LGBTQ community that night. He has left the Pride Tape on the butt end of his sticks ever since the Devils’ Pride Night, and he has no intention of taking it off until his NHL career is over.
“It meant something to people, and so I figured I just wouldn’t take it off,” Gabriel told Outsports. “It’s not a very hard gesture. So I figured I’d just support the LGBTQ community.”
Gabriel had originally wrapped the Pride Tape on his stick during warm-ups ahead of their game against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 25. While most of the players put it on the blade of their stick, Gabriel put it on the butt end because he didn’t want the tape interfering with the shape of his blade.
“I’ve got this new curve going [on my stick], and the black tape is the only thing that was going to work with it,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel reinforced the Pride Tape gesture with a “heartfelt” tweet:
Permanent Pride Tape on his hockey stick
Gabriel insists that keeping the rainbow-colored tape on his stick isn’t superstition (he did, after all, score his first NHL goal with it). It’s partly practical — It would simply take more effort to take it off than leave it on.
Yet more than that, he has seen and heard just how much that visible gesture means to people in the LGBTQ community. It has been through talking with LGBTQ people in his life, including lesbian friends of his girlfriend, that he has come to understand some of the struggles LGBTQ people face in their lives.
“We’ve seen some of our friends go through a lot of struggles with their family and we think it’s awful to see. We couldn’t imagine going through that with something as meaningful as your sexual orientation.”
Gabriel said he’s since gotten to meet one of the creators of Pride Team — Jeff McLean — and hearing about his experiences, as well as the impact that Pride Tape has on people, has made him even more resolved to continue his visible support.
Hockey is more inclusive of gay people than ever
Gabriel said the environment in hockey has changed dramatically. And regardless of what anyone else might think, any LGBTQ athlete who came out in hockey or in his locker room would have a strong friend in him.
“Nobody says the F bomb anymore,” he said. “I don’t hear it on the ice. It’s really turned away from that. Even in casual locker room talk, you don’t hear guys saying that kind of stuff. Of course there is going to be an odd slippage here or there as we transition, but I think it’s changed.”
Gabriel was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in 2013. He previously played for the Owen Sound Attack in the Ontario Hockey League.
Read more about the New Jersey Devils at All About The Jersey.