Matador Chris Gale recently came back from Europe where he played for the Division III American College Hockey Association All-Star team (ACHA), which was a first for a California native to participate in.
Gale said it was one of the greatest experiences in his hockey career. He lived part of a dream, traveling to Europe and playing four hockey games, he said.
“I heard a little bit like, ‘Shouldn’t you be surfing’ that kind of stuff,” said Gale, who leads the Matadors with 36 goals. “All the guys were cool and it was interesting how quickly we bonded, it was one of the closest teams I played with.”
Hockey is a big part of Gale’s life. It’s the sport he has lived and breathed since he was five years old.
Bad weather and a delayed flight from New York to Europe was an inconvenience for Gale and the team.
After experiencing the hockey atmosphere in Europe, Gale said he may even consider heading back there to play professionally. The ACHA’s first game was played outdoors with no glass around the rink.
“It would validate all the years I have been playing and the hard work I’ve put in,” Gale said. “I would definitely go back and play and we will see what kind of opportunities I may get in the next year or two.”
He said he knows that it will be a tough road, but to travel to Europe and play in a hockey league just for a few years would be worth the trouble.
Teammate AJ Bernhardt said he believes Gale can be a great asset to the European leagues.
“He has the skill and ability to become a better player and play at a higher level than just collegiate hockey,” said Bernhardt, who has played with Gale for three years. “Seeing him play is incredible, he amazes me by what he can do with the puck and his talent makes everyone around him better.”
Gale said he knows his chances for the National Hockey League are slim, but his goal was going to college and playing hockey.
It takes great discipline and sacrifice for a hockey player to make the NHL. Prospects play in the minor league teams from the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League just to see if they have a shot of playing in the biggest stage.
“It’s hard to break into a level like that when you haven’t put in the time,” Gale said. “Some of the routes I’ve taken on the course of my hockey career maybe weren’t the right steps to that direction.”
Gale was recruited by colleges that wanted him to play, but leaving and playing for an out-of-state institution would have been too expensive and if he didn’t make the AHL or ECHL, then he would have started the end of his college life in debt, he said.
He decided to stay in California and go to college and play hockey.
A junior at CSUN, Gale said he will try to continue to be a part of the sport in one way or another.
“Coaching or maybe being an instructor for clinics is something I may look into,” Gale said. “I have dedicated so much time to hockey it’s a route that I feel I have to stay in.”
He wants to give back to the game and wants to see California have NCAA Division I hockey in its colleges one day.
“Hockey has exploded in California in the last 10 years,” Gale said. “There is so much room and there should be no reason why there isn’t Division I hockey here, there would be so much draw and kids wanted to come here. Some people ride it off because it is California, but that would be something I would definitely help develop.”