One of the University of Alberta Pandas’ latest women’s hockey recruits has, at the age of 25, already won a CIS (now U Sports) hockey championship, played for teams from three European countries, and competed in an IIHF World Championship.
Forward Alex Gowie will be joining the team this season as she returns to university to complete her undergraduate degree, bringing with her a wealth of unique experiences.
“Over the last four seasons, she has been playing in Europe, specifically for KMH Budapest (Hungary), Slovakia (HC Spišská Nová Ves), and Bozen Italy,” Pandas Head Coach Howie Draper said in a University of Alberta release. “Also a member of the Hungarian National Team, she is a mobile forward that also increases our size up front.”
Born in South Africa, Gowie grew up and first started playing hockey in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia (BC). When she decided that she wanted to pursue hockey more seriously, she moved to BC’s Okanagan region, where she played in BC’s Female Midget AAA league and with the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
Gowie won the CIS championship in 2011-12—her first of three years with the University of Calgary Dinos—playing on a star-studded team that included the likes of Hayley Wickenheiser, Iya Gavrilova, and Elana Lovell. It was while she was with the Dinos that playing in Europe became an option.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my degree, I just wanted a change,” Gowie said. “One of the girls that played on the team was from Hungary [Kitti Trencsényi] and it was her first year on the team. She was going to leave after and she encouraged me to go over [to Europe] and so I went over there and played in Hungary.”
Originally signed for one year with KMH Budapest, Gowie was invited to the Hungarian national team’s training camps and was encouraged to return to KMH Budapest for a second year and a chance to obtain Hungarian citizenship. While Gowie moved on to a new team and country after two years in Budapest, she eventually became a Hungarian citizen and officially joined the national team program.
As a new Hungarian citizen who had grown up playing hockey in Canada, putting on the Hungarian jersey was at first a strange experience.
“The first time [wearing the Hungarian jersey] I remember, we played a Christmas tournament in Austria … [which included games] against the under-23 Canadian team,” said Gowie. “We were lining up on the blue line and I just saw Team Canada in front of me and I was wearing the Hungarian jersey and I heard the Canadian anthem and I remember it was so weird for me … [but] it is an honour for sure.”
Gowie donned the Hungarian jersey in the 2016 Olympic Qualification tournament before being sidelined with a concussion and missing the 2017 World Championships. However, she competed for Hungary in the 2018 World Championships Division I Group A tournament in France earlier this year.
Gowie’s last two years in Europe were spent in Slovakia with HC Spišská Nová Ves and in Italy with EV Bozen Eagles. Gowie was dominant in Slovakia, with 30 goals and 23 assists through 11 games. In Italy, Gowie concluded her European adventure by winning the Italian league championship while playing a new position, defence.
Now Gowie has returned to Canada, and is looking forward to returning to U Sports competition and gaining more new experiences with a different hockey team.
“I’d heard really good things about [the University of Alberta] program and wanted to experience it and be a part of it,” said Gowie. “I want to be more of a presence in the league this time around. I wasn’t so much last time [with the University of Calgary] and I feel like all these experiences will not only help me, but help the girls. I can bring my maturity and my experiences to the team.”
Last season the University of Alberta finished fourth in Canada West behind the University of Manitoba, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of British Columbia. The Pandas will be looking to return to nationals this season, having won the U Sports title in 2017.
Joining the team this season along with Gowie are Danielle Hardy, a forward returning to Canada after three years in the NCAA with Providence College, and Halle Oswald, a young goaltender who has put up impressive numbers with the Pembina Valley Hawks.
The Pandas’ 2018-19 season begins on October 5 in Saskatoon.