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NHL’s Top LGBTQ and Mental Health Advocate Kurtis Gabriel Retires

Photo courtesy of Kurtis Gabriel

NHL’s Top LGBTQ and Mental Health Advocate Kurtis Gabriel Retires

On Monday, 29-year-old forward Kurtis Gabriel announced his decision to ‘listen to his body’ and retire from playing professional hockey.

Although under the age of 30, the Newmarket, ON. product did play professionally for nine seasons. Over his NHL career, Gabriel suited up for 51 games with the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks, while spending the majority of his time in the American Hockey League.

In the ‘A’, Gabriel played 371 total games, where he had 39 goals and 72 points over his career. But for the bulk of his time in both the minors and the big leagues, he served as a grinder and enforcer of sorts, racking up fights and penalty minutes in bulk. The 6-foot-4 forward had a whopping 639 penalty minutes in the AHL, while registering 153 penalty minutes in the NHL.

Another significant part of Gabriel’s life is that of his advocacy work in the areas of his ally-ship with the LQBTQ2SIA+ community, as well as that of racism and mental health awareness.

He became the first player to actually play a game while using ‘Pride’ stick tape, and continue to do so not only on his team’s ‘Pride Night’.

Gabriel won the 2011 Ontario Hockey League championship with the Owen Sound Attack while in his major junior days. He is currently dating former female college hockey goaltender and current Instagram model Mikayla DeMaiter.

On Monday Gabriel penned a letter to his fans as he joined the NHL’s Alumni Association in retirement. The bulk of his note is listed below:

 

“This is definitely not an easy decision, but I feel like I need to listen to my body, my heart, and my mind, and they are telling me it is time to retire from playing professional hockey.

I could not be more grateful for the career I have had. If you would have told me at seventeen years old, when my amazing mum, Kim, suggested that I try out for the local Newmarket Hurricanes (because it was “only fifty dollars and some of your team mates were too,”) that I would be where I am at twenty nine, I would not have believed you!

What a ride we have had Mum. What a journey it has been!

Thank you to my unbelievable support system: my loving family, girlfriend & her family, friends, teammates, coaches, management, trainers, team staff, blllets, fans, and anyone who has ever supported me even in the smallest way through all these years. I never could have done it without you all.

The life experiences and lessons that were packed into the time since I committed to hockey are truly priceless. I will cherish them and apply them to my life going forward. And one thing is for sure.hockey created the conditions for me to be tested to my limits. The suffering that came from it, physically but mostly mentally, was the catalyst that pushed me to “awaken” spiritually. I am forever grateful for that. 

I actually find it fitting that I end this journey in the off-season. I got to where I am because of what I did in the off-season for thirteen years. 

I am excited to see what life will be like in this next chapter!”

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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