Kurtis Gabriel is trying to remind everyone that the sport of hockey is all-inclusive.
According to Outsports, Gabriel, a right wing for the New Jersey Devils, will keep his career beginning stick. The significance of this lies with the rainbow-colored Pride tape adorned on the butt end of his stick.
Gabriel used the stick during the New Jersey Devils’ 2019 Pride Night against the Montreal Canadiaens back in February. That happens to be the same night that Gabriel scored his first NHL goal. Now, Gabriel, who’s currently recovering from an upper-body injury according to CBSSports, shares that he’ll keep the tape on his stick for the foreseeable future.
“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 then reinforced these thoughts through a similar tweet.
“Just a friendly remjnd hockey is for everyone. Everything is for everyone…except maybe a giraffe wanting to be a rock climber, I don’t know about that one #gaypride,” wrote the professional athlete. [sic]
— Kurtis Gabriel (@kurtisgabriel) February 28, 2019
Keeping the Pride tape on his stick has several layers of meaning to Gabriel. It reminds him of his first NHL goal, reminds him to stay humble, and reminds him of his commitment to being a role model for inclusion in the sport. On the latter part, Gabriel shared that he wants to make sure that sexual orientation is never the reason that someone can’t enjoy the sport of hockey.
“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.”
Despite the continual fight for a safe space in sports for LGBTQ people, Gabriel is always down to throw a punch and the athlete recognizes the strides already made in hockey.
“Nobody says the F bomb anymore,” he told Outsports. “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.”