Newmarket-born NHL forward Kurtis Gabriel is coming home.
Gabriel signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs July 28, the first day of NHL free agency. The 28-year-old forward and Newmarket Minor Hockey Association alumni is joining his hometown team after eight years of playing professional hockey.
Gabriel posted a picture of himself July 28 on Twitter as a kid wearing Leafs gear, with the caption “how it started vs. how it’s going.”
“Can’t put it into words,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel has played with three NHL organizations, bouncing between AHL and NHL games in Minnesota, New Jersey and San Jose. He has played in 49 career NHL games, registering five points and 55 penalty minutes, while also playing in 319 AHL games.
Gabriel, who attended Denne Public School in Newmarket, spent his minor league career with the Newmarket Minor Hockey Association, also playing AAA in Richmond Hill. He also played with the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said he likes everything Gabriel is about.
“We know what we’re going to get from him in terms of his effort level, his passion, every single day,” Dubas said in a media availability. “We’re excited to have him and think he’ll add a lot to our whole organization both on the ice and off the ice.”
Gabriel has earned notoriety in recent years for his social advocacy efforts. He scored a game-winning NHL goal wearing rainbow, Pride-themed hockey tape in 2019, which he has kept on his stick ever since. He has gone on to be an advocate for hockey as an inclusive space.
“Thank you, Kurtis Gabriel,” the San Jose Sharks, his previous team, said on Twitter July 29. “We will always support and stand by you in your efforts to make this game a place for everyone.”
“Can tell you I’m bringing everything I got,” Gabriel said of joining the Leafs. “And then some more.”