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Newmarket NHLer Kurtis Gabriel announces retirement

'What a journey it has been,' local says after 10 professional seasons, credits sport for awakening him ‘spiritually’
Newmarket NHLer Kurtis Gabriel announced his retirement Sept. 19.

Newmarket NHLer Kurtis Gabriel is calling it a professional hockey career after 10 seasons split with the AHL.

The famed hockey player announced the decision on his social media Sept. 19. The 29-year-old played 51 NHL games in all, along with 371 games in the AHL. 

“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,” Gabriel said in a social media release. “I could not be more grateful for the career I have had.”

The move comes after no announcement of an NHL or AHL contract for Gabriel this past summer. His hometown Toronto Maple Leafs inked him to a one-year deal in 2021, but he did not crack any regular season games, instead playing for the AHL Toronto Marlies. He was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks early in the season, where he would split time between the NHL and AHL. 

The hockey player reflected on his journey, trying out for the local Newmarket Hurricanes at the urging of his mother at age 17, eventually leading to the pro scene.

“What a ride we have had, Mum. What a journey it has been,” he said.

A journeyman forward, Gabriel spent his 10-year pro career across six different AHL teams and four NHL teams. He had five points across 51 NHL games and 72 across 371 AHL games. 

Gabriel gained notoriety as a progressive voice in the hockey space after scoring a game-winning NHL goal while wearing a rainbow, Pride-theme hockey tape in 2019, which he kept on his stick afterwards. He went on to advocate for inclusivity in the sport.

“Hockey created the conditions for me to be tested to my limits,” he said. “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.”

Dozens of well-wishers offered Gabriel congratulations after the announcement, recognizing his play and his advocacy.

“Reading this makes me sad because it means the hockey world is saying a sort of goodbye to a really great dude who genuinely wanted to help make change,” one fan said on Twitter. “However, I hope this isn’t a real goodbye, and you’ll stick around the hockey world.”

The hockey player did not tip his hat as far as what comes next. But he said he found the timing of retiring in the off-season “fitting,” crediting his off-season training for getting him far. 

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