It has been a whirlwind offseason in women’s hockey, with the folding of the CWHL and the #ForTheGame movement by the PWHPA. Beyond that, several prominent European players have returned to play back at home, most in the SDHL. But that has always been a two-way street, especially for the Connecticut Whale. Four of their European stars from last season have returned to play in the SDHL (3) and the Russian League (1). But in the past, players such as Elena Orlando, Laura Brennan, Jordan Brickner and Sophia Aostinelli started their pro careers in Europe before coming to the NWHL.
In one of the most exciting moves of the offseason, that flow continued as the Whale signed a Petrolia, Ontario native and former Canadian National Champion, Kendra Broad. We recently had the opportunity and the pleasure to chat with Kendra about her career and her path to the Whale. While doing some background research prior to our interview, we found this video of Kendra while she was finishing her first season at Western Ontario University. As an introduction to the type of player and person that Kendra is, you should check it out:
In that video, it took her less time than it took to type this sentence to deflect the praise directed to her back onto her teammates saying “All of the individual awards were just a show of what we did as a team…”. A lioness doesn’t have to tell you she’s a lioness.
Kendra’s Hockey Roots
As mentioned above, Kendra hails from the town of Petrolia, Ontario. Petrolia sits about an hour and a half northeast of Detroit, and an hour or so from London, Ontario, near the southern terminus of Lake Huron. It is oil country, and the location of the Fairbanks Oil Fields, hence the town name. But it is also hockey country, as Kendra explained “I think like many small towns all across Canada, Petrolia is very hockey-centric.” Like many kids in these towns, Kendra got started in hockey early. She told us, “My parents put me on the ice as soon as I could walk, so I was skating at the age of two. The next season my parents signed me up to play hockey, and everything sort of evolved from there.” That’s impressive even for a young Canadian player, but the next part of Kendra’s story is amazing. Kendra did not have to look far for a hockey role model, because her mom was a hockey player too! Kendra told us, “I remember as a kid going to watch my mom play for her senior team – the Alvinston Flyers. Since my dad was the coach, I even got to go out and skate with them at practice a few times. I just remember having so much fun being around the team – at the rink, tournaments, hotels etc. I think it’s special I got to grow up watching my mom play – not many girls can say that.” Pretty amazing story right there!
Concerning her early career in Petrolia, Kendra also offered this: “I did spend most of my years playing outside of the town though, in bigger centres to play at a higher level… for most of my minor hockey that was in Sarnia. For junior hockey, though I played in Markham, Burlington, K-W and Windsor – all 2+ hours from where I lived. I ended up playing in these places simply because I couldn’t make a local team at the junior level. I think it was a combination of being a poor tryout player and getting overlooked. I found a position on these other teams mostly by chance. One team had a player quit and needed a player right before the season. Another team was looking to round out their roster with one more player in September. I was just really determined to play at the highest level and continued to ‘bug’ teams until someone gave me a chance.”
And when we asked if she had found time to participate in multiple sports, Kendra told us, “I also played soccer, baseball and basketball (and track too – I was not good at it though!). It was always a nice change up from hockey to play different sports.” A little research revealed that Kendra was being pretty modest about her track and field career; while at Lambton Central High school, she participated in the long jump, triple jump, 100 meters, 4×100 meter relay, and the 80 and 300 meter hurdles. All events that require the speed, strength and athleticism that a hockey player might possess, especially if her name is Kendra Broad.
Kendra’s college hockey career was not just a Tale Of Two Cities, but a Tale of Two Countries as she matriculated and played hockey at both Lindenwood University and Western Ontario University. She shared the interesting story of that very successful odyssey this way: “I chose Lindenwood because it had everything I was looking for – they had the major I was looking to pursue, the campus was beautiful and the staff was very eager and supportive. They were also entering their first season as a Division 1 program. This is something I saw as an exciting opportunity,” she adds, “I have a ton of favorite memories from my time at Lindenwood. On the ice though, I would have to say it was our triple overtime game against Robert Morris in the playoffs my sophomore year. We ultimately ended up losing the game, which was a heart-breaker, after the effort we had all put in, especially our goalie and good friend of mine Nicole Hensley, who had 90 saves in the game.”
Kendra had a huge impact on the Lion’s program, playing all three forward positions and scoring 24 goals and adding 27 assists as a strong two-way player. Some of her points were historic, too. Kendra scored the first goal in the program’s NCAA DI history with a second-period tally against Minnesota State as a freshman. In that sophomore season she mentioned, she scored Lindenwood’s first CHA game-winning goal in a 5-1 victory over Penn State. Kendra’s physical style of play earned her 103 PIM and her work in the classroom earned her a spot on the College Hockey America All-Academic team and selection as the CHA Student-Athlete of the Year award.
Kendra also shared some rather humorous off-ice memories that a lot of athletes in any sport can identify with, “Off the ice, though I have so many memories of our long bus rides (seriously, 18 hour ones!) and horrendous travel luck. We once had to stay in hotels for over a week. We had a weekend series in Syracuse, were suppose to fly home on Sunday night or Monday morning but our flight got cancelled and our coaches were unable to arrange a way for us all to get back to campus. So instead we stayed in Syracuse and then headed to Robert Morris by bus for our first round playoff series. Then, after that we finally took a flight back to campus (or maybe a bus)… I can’t remember.”
After three seasons of NCAA hockey, an opportunity presented itself for Kendra to return to Canada, and she decided to make the move. She explains, “Going back to Western after graduating in three years, was to this day, the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. My intention in going back to play in Canada was to play for a winning team – a team that had a shot to win a National Championship. Playing for Lindenwood was such a good experience, but after years of a losing record, and with having finished with my degree… it was time for me to move on. My coaches and all my teammates there were so supportive of my decision and that was something I am very grateful for.”
Kendra continued, “When coming back to Canada, I was looking to play for a winning team, which based on Western’s past record, they should not even have been on my radar. However, because they were the closest team to my hometown I decided to reach out to the coach (one of those coaches who cut me as a junior, grrr…) as a backup plan – if all else fails I might go there. I was talking to a couple of other schools at the time and had some really good offers, and actually committed to one of them and had given my word to the Western coach that I had decided on another school. After a couple of days, I heard back from the Western coach, asking me if the co-head coach who would be joining him next season, could call and talk to me before I made my decision final. I obviously said yes to that call… which looking back I’m not even sure why I did, but I did. He (Dave Barrett) called me, and while I can’t remember the exact details of the call, I do remember getting off the phone, sitting in my little college room and saying “I’m going to go to Western.”
Kendra reflected “From a perspective of wanting to win a National Championship, this was a decision that didn’t really make sense. In the past, Western had been a middle of the pack team in the Ontario league, they had never won a league title or even been to the National Tournament. Yet something felt “right” – my gut was telling me to go there. And still to my disbelief, trusting this “gut instinct” more than worked out! We would go on to lose only a single game all year on route to winning both a league title and a National Championship in my first season — both firsts in program history! It was the experience of a lifetime and I think what makes it even more special is the fact that we were seen as underdogs the entire season! I really feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of such an amazing group of teammates and staff who made it all possible!”
During her career for the Mustangs, Kendra averaged better than a point per game, including 30 points in 24 games that Championship season. That was the high point of her two-year career at Western, as she explained, “The following season, we wouldn’t have quite the same amount of success, but still made it to Nationals. It was actually a rather sad ending to my college career – I tore my MCL in the later part of our season… tried to come back (still injured) and as result, wasn’t able to contribute in the way that I would have liked.” It should be noted, that she still contributed 18 points in the 18 games she appeared in.
Kendra had compiled quite an impressive hockey resume at this point, but was far from ready to hang up her skates. So she made the decision to explore her option in the Euro Leagues, as several other of the Whale have done. Kendra explained, “Lucky for me though, I was given an opportunity to extend my playing career overseas. I went to Sweden for a season and played for a team called Sundsvall. I also taught at an English school while I was there. The combination of hockey, working and living there was such an incredible experience. Sweden is such an awesome country and the hockey was very competitive – very college-like (on the ice every day, workouts, bus trips, etc.). The only downside was it was cold and dark in the winter :)”
Kendra added, “Following my year in Sweden, I went to play hockey in Switzerland for a couple of seasons for a team called Neuchatel Hockey Academy. The level of hockey was definitely a lower level than I was used to, but the pay was better! Everyone on the team spoke French, which was different than in Sweden – there we had so many foreign players on the team, that our coach spoke English, the common language. Ask any one of my teammates on Neuchatel and they will tell you how poor my French is. Instead of trying to understand what was going on in pre-game speeches and practices I just stuck with the fact that it was my job to ‘marquer des buts”. That means ‘score goals’.” And she did, leading Neuchatel in combined goals, assists and points over her two-year stay. Kendra also revealed that one of the benefits of not being fluent in French was not being bothered by opposing players’ trash talk. It was in French, and she couldn’t understand!
Kendra, as we know now, has crossed the Atlantic, and became the first forward to sign with the Connecticut Whale for the 2019-2020 season. As to where she may play Kendra replied, “I’m comfortable playing any forward position. I’ve been a center for a while now, so there might be an initial adjustment to playing wing but it won’t take long to get back into the swing of things if that’s where I’m needed.” She added, “I’m definitely so excited to return to North America, and to play in the NWHL for the CT Whale. The level of play is going to be better and that’s something I’m looking forward to! I’m obviously also excited to specifically be playing for the Whale – I think Bray [General Manager, Bray Ketchum Peel] has a great vision for the organization and that it’s going to be a great place for me to play and to contribute. I’m very excited to see our new home in Danbury, to get settled in there and to get to work with my teammates.”
And as we found out as we were putting the finishing touches on this interview, that start this season will be on October 5th versus the Buffalo Beauts.
We thank Kendra Broad for her candid and insightful remarks, and wish her continued success in this next stop in her hockey career. As they say around the rink at the Whale’s new home in Danbury, Connecticut: Fins Up to that!