Katherine Gale arrived in Canada with only two things – a hockey bag and her personal belongings.
And that’s all she needed.
Gale is from Crowthorne, England – a small town of close to 7, 000, only an hour southwest from London – and made the move oversees last September, attempting to take the next step in her hockey career.
After playing last season with Scanlon Creek – a hockey academy in Barrie, Ont., focusing on Europeans – Gale joined the Varsity Blues women’s team for this season.
Even after her first game in U of T blue, a 5-0 victory at home over the Ryerson Rams on Thursday, Gale says she loves the greater appreciation for hockey in Canada.
“I think it’s just the culture here,” said the first-year Kinesiology student.
“In England everybody’s like ‘why aren’t you playing soccer’ so it’s definitely just the whole culture of being able to play hockey and people understanding ‘yeah I’m going to the hockey rink, it’s OK.’”
Gale was the only student who played hockey at her high school in England and found her best competition was as a member of the Great Britain national team. She’s already found the level of play in Canada far and beyond what she experienced in her homeland.
“It’s faster, it’s more go on and get on with it and England it’s more stick handling and going around players,” she said. “You have more time to do what you want.”
“Here, you have to make decisions really quickly.”
Gale recruited by U of T coach
U of T coach and former member of Canada’s national team Vicky Sunohara actively recruited the Brit when Toronto played Scanlon Creek last year.
“She was the only person on their team that had basically two break-a-ways and it was just her speed,” said the third-year-coach. “Driving to the net, she’s just relentless, you know, she’s a very quick skater, very aggressive and very net focused.”
Sunohara got into contact with her coaches and had Gale come in to see the school. The 19-year-old was impressed with the campus life and the city.
It was an easy decision to make.
“U of T has the education side and the hockey on top of that, so it’s really good.”
Gale says her older brothers influenced her to get into the sport instead of taking the common route of soccer. It wasn’t easy leaving home for the first time – especially when it’s across the Atlantic Ocean – but says the support of her teammates has helped as lot.
“They’re still in England. The whole family is in England, I’m the only one over here,” said Gale. “I live in Res, so I’m on my own. The team’s here, they help me as much as possible. When I first moved they helped me drive around and pick stuff up.”
“Hopefully my parents can come see me play one day. I want my friends to come and visit, that would be really cool just to even see Canada.”
Sunohara says the five-foot-two forward brings a lot of speed and aggression to lineup, but Gale thinks there’s something else she can deliver.
“I think I bring a new perspective on things,” she said. “I’m from a different background and was taught things differently.”
“They learn things from me and I learn things from them.”
Varsity Blues take opener
In front of a packed house at Varsity Arena, the U of T women’s hockey team got off on the right foot in OUA play Thursday.
Senior forward Kelly O’Hanlon got things rolling with a power-play-goal 6:17 into the first. From there Marlie McLaughlin, Alie Brind’Amour-McClure and Sonja Weidenfelder tallied goals in the period, giving the Blues a 4-0 lead. Amanda Ricker also scored in the third.
Gale was impressed with the crowd’s excitement throughout the game.
“It was unreal, there were so many people, so many kids. It such a great atmosphere, it was fun,” said Gail.