Exclusive Q&A With Toronto Maple Leafs Forward Kurtis Gabriel

Kurtis Gabriel is one of the most outspoken players in the National Hockey League, and has been huge for inclusive and diversity in the sport, so I knew I had to bring him in for an interview. We asked the Maple Leafs forward on his role in growing the sport, his free agency decision, and much more, all asked by our followers on our Instagram story.

Q1: How does it feel knowing you are a role model to a lot of people?

Gabriel: Definitely means something to me that I am a role model, not only with my successes but my failures as well. None of us are perfect, and people need to remember that. I am very hard on myself, so of course, I strive for perfection. Like a dog chasing a car, I will never get it, I know that, but if I can consistently try my best, and continue to, even through the failure, and see it as a necessary stepping stone, I can’t lose. I hope others try to implement that in all areas of their life.

Q2: Who is the hardest working teammate you’ve ever played with?

Gabriel: It has to be Mario Ferraro. I can’t tell you how much respect I have for that guy. Every single team needs a guy like that, and there are not many of them. A very special person. Should be the future captain of the San Jose Sharks, in my opinion.

Q3: What inspired you to begin talking about “taboo” topics in hockey?

Gabriel: Plain and simple, I had the issue humanized. Saw in my life, someone I knew was a great person, be unsupported by her family financially because of who she loved. I never experienced or witnessed that kind of injustice as a white, straight, able-bodied, cis-gendered, junior or professional hockey player. I can’t turn a blind eye to it. Once you are behind one issue, you are behind them all, look up intersectionality. I am trying to stick to LGBTQ2S+ while learning about systemic racism on the side. Any more than that and it is too much.

Q4: Who is the hardest opponent you have had to fight in your career?

Gabriel: Hands down, Brett Gallant. He is the toughest guy in professional hockey, arguably ever in my opinion. Ever.

Q5: What do you think you can bring to this Maple Leafs roster to spice it up?

Gabriel: Just me. I can’t help it. I have a lot of passion and enthusiasm for the game of hockey, and I feel like I bring others into the fight because of it. There is nothing better, nothing, than a team of guys buying in and playing for each other. I take a lot of pride in doing my specific role on a team like that. The attention to detail, the second, third, fourth effort plays, the little things I do, that’s my game. That usually means a lot of physicality. I got to make the team though, a very talented group and need to earn it. Long season and things can change fast, but I will be ready for anything.

Q6: What convinced you to sign in Toronto over other offers?

Gabriel: They wanted me the most. That is where I go. I go through all the teams and circle the ones I believe I am the best fit for. Then from there, it is who wants me more, and the Maple Leafs were that team.

Q7: Have any NHL players ever chirped you for your views?

Gabriel: Nope, not to my face, or on the ice. One guy in the minors was going to one time, I could tell, but he held back, and I made sure to let him know he made a great decision.

Q8: If you could add one players skillset to your game, who and what would it be?

Gabriel: Hard not to say [Connor] McDavid for me. I have a ton of grit and physicality, so to add his ability to separate from players, and have his brain/hands match his feet would be crazy. Not to mention how many more guys I could crush with hits with that speed.

Q9: How do you think the NHL can grow the sport?

Gabriel: Probably to brand players more individually. Never want it to effect the game, but great teams are made up of great individuals, so to humanize and showcase those players would go a long way. At the same time, I don’t think most people realize how damn hard this game is on your mind and body. Like for sure, it is a game, and it is fun and amazing but it is downright exhausting and players do need to rest and get away from everything. But guys who want to do that a bit should not be looked down on. That isn’t really on the NHL though, that’s just the culture of hockey in general. There is a delicate balance to be made there.

Q10: What was your “welcome to the NHL” moment?

Gabriel: Anthony Peluso was standing on the bench at my first game’s morning skate with his hoodie pulled over his head eyeing me. He didn’t play, but [Chris] Thorburn did, so I fought him. Next game in the NHL I fought Peluso.

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