After a season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League, LGBTQ ally Kurt Gabriel will be back on NHL ice whenever the new season starts, presumably on New Year’s Day 2021, coronavirus notwithstanding.
And we presume he’ll bring his Pride Tape with him to San Jose, Calif.
The Sharks announced on Nov. 2 that the team signed Gabriel to a one-year contract, but did not disclose terms.
“Kurtis provides valuable depth to the organization, having experience at both the NHL and AHL level,” said Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson in a statement earlier this month. “He is a great teammate who brings an extremely competitive, hard working attitude on the ice. We are happy to have him join our organization.”
As Cyd Zeigler wrote in 2019, Gabriel scored his first-ever NHL goal playing for the New Jersey Devils at his team’s Pride Night. He used a stick adorned with the rainbow-colored Pride Tape, to acknowledge and support the LGBTQ community that night.
While most of the players apply Pride Tape on the blade of their stick, Gabriel said he 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, and the black tape is the only thing that was going to work with it,” said Gabriel.
Ever since that career-christening goal, he has left the Pride Tape on the butt end of his sticks, and said he had no intention of taking it off after the Pride Night game.
“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 insisted that keeping the rainbow-colored tape on his stick wasn’t superstition; it was partly practical — It would simply take more effort to take it off than leave it on.
And as an ally with friends in the community, Gabriel said he and his girlfriend came 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.”
While playing in the Lehigh Valley, Gabriel was awarded IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year for what the team called his outstanding contributions to the community during the 2019-20 season. That included being the Phantoms’ player ambassador for their Pride night, recording a PSA to stress the importance of inclusion both on the ice and off, and visiting a local LGBTQ center in Allentown, representing the You Can Play Project.
You Can Play - Kurtis Gabriel
If you can play, you can play. It's that simple. Join us for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms second annual You Can Play Pride Night tonight, inside PPL Center, at 7:05 p.m. Order tickets online and a portion of the proceeds will go back to the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. ️→ http://phantoms.hockey/YouCanPlay Learn more about the Bradbury-Sullivan Center here: https://www.bradburysullivancenter.org/ Find out more about the You Can Play Project here: http://youcanplayproject.org/Posted by Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday, February 14, 2020
As the Sharks noted in their press release, Gabriel has appeared in 38 NHL games over the course of his professional career, playing for the Minnesota Wild as well as the Devils, recording five points (two goals, three assists) with 98 PIM (player infraction minutes).
In 2018-19, he set career highs in games played (22), goals (2), assists (2), and points (4) with New Jersey. In the AHL, Gabriel recorded 63 points (33 goals, 30 assists) and 508 PIM in 317 games. Gabriel led the Iowa Wild in penalty minutes in 2014-15 (125) and 2015-16 (137).
The six-foot-four, 200-pound native of Newmarket, Ontario was originally selected by the Minnesota Wild in the 2013 NHL Draft.
If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.