As a defenceman, Kyle Gentles has been trained to protect his goaltender in a myriad of ways. Sitting at his desk recently, inside a house he’s renting with a handful of fellow first-year student-athletes, he’s studying how to defend the public at large.
“I’ve always wanted to pursue studies in law – whether it’s policing or eventually going to law school, but this area of study is where my passion is” Gentles said. He is beginning his first semester at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON – as well as his inaugural season with the Golden Hawks varsity hockey team.
Currently in the Bachelor of Arts stream but minoring in Criminology, Gentles speaks with genuine excitement describing how he’s “learning a lot about Indigenous Studies and Psychology” too.
Away from the classroom, he’s had discussions with Waterloo Regional Police about potential job opportunities after graduation.
“I have a long-term goal but, right now, it’s more of a feeling-out process,” he said of his eventual career path.
A native of Ajax, ON, Gentles appeared in 174 games with the Rangers from 2016-2019 and recorded 32 points in that span. As an over-ager last year, he had his best offensive season notching 13 assists. He was also a plus five in 54 regular season games despite being out of action for seven weeks early in the year due to a leg injury.
With no lingering issues in his limb, Gentles was named as part of Head Coach (and fellow Rangers alum) Greg “Chief” Puhalski’s eight-player recruiting class in August. The transition to Ontario University Athletics from the OHL has been a smooth one thanks in extra part to former teammate Jake Henderson.
Henderson had 15 points in 27 regular season games during his one season with the Hawks last year before joining the Kansas City Mavericks of the East Coast Hockey League. He recently signed with the Rapid City Rush for the 2019/20 season.
“Henderson told me what to expect with school, hockey, and the coaches,” said Gentles, adding, “Lucky for me, a lot of the returning players liked him, so when I brought his name up and our connection, there were some nice smiles on their faces,” he said with a laugh.
Providing his first-hand assessment thus far, Gentles admitted that “I’m playing against guys that are much older, much stronger, and have a good sense of what university hockey is all about.
“These guys take their hockey very seriously, but they also look to add the fun aspect to it – which I love.”
“Once we get on the ice though, Chief is on top of us. He wants his drills done correctly,” he said of the team’s bench boss, who is entering his 10th season leading the purple and gold.
“At the end of the day, hockey’s still hockey … The adjustment hasn’t been that hard.”
As he forges his path in life, Gentles fondly recalls the Rangers’ run to the Western Conference finals two seasons ago.
“The atmosphere at The Aud was amazing and then flying-out after the game to Sault Ste. Marie and playing in front of their crowd, the talented players we had, that was definitely a huge honour,” he said.
Gentles values the friendships developed the most though. “I look at my time in Kitchener as time of growth but not just in the hockey aspect. I now have long-term friends that I connect with every single day,” he said.
“Making those brotherhood connections is the biggest memory, in general, that I’ve taken away from the Rangers experience.”