Even as a kid in Kitchener, Ontario, Loren Gabel possessed drive.
During her summer vacations, the Boston Pride winger would set up in her driveway and shoot 500 pucks a day. Never mind that there were tons of other pursuits she could do outside. She convinced herself that shooting those 500 pucks would make her a better hockey player.
“That was all me,” said Gabel. “As a kid, I wanted to shoot pucks. I wanted to get better. I would set up stickhandling things in the driveway, with recycled materials such as water bottles. I’d use a golf ball and just stickhandle around that stuff.”
The hard work paid off, as Gabel is now the Premier Hockey Federation’s leading goal scorer and overall scorer with 18 goals and 34 points in 17 games for the defending champion Pride (16-2-1). She also leads the league with 109 shots on goal, not a surprise considering how she spent those childhood summers.
“Being dedicated to my sport at such a young age has definitely helped me,” said Gabel. “You can see with my shot today that the hard work has paid off and, obviously, that hard work doesn’t stop. It still continues.”
It still continues because Gabel, though already incredibly accomplished, has more career goals in mind. One is seeing what heights she can achieve within the PHF, which she joined this past fall after spending the last three years in the rival Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. The other is achieving more success within Hockey Canada.
Despite Gabel’s many accolades in the sport — including the 2019 Patty Kazmaier Award as the best college player in the US and two NCAA championships at Clarkson — her inclusion on Canada’s national roster has been inconsistent. After playing for the Canadian team for tournaments in 2018 and 2019, she was left off for the 2021 and 2022 World Championships, as well as the 2022 Olympics. In November, Gabel made a Canadian roster again, this time for the month’s Rivalry Series games.
Many in the sport were puzzled by Gabel’s absence from those squads and thought she deserved at least to make the fall 2021 Olympic centralization program from which the team would be named. According to reports at the time, she said that Hockey Canada told her she had “lost her passion for the game.”
Now a year and a half removed from the disappointment, she is using it as a motivator, calling it “PPW” — prove people wrong.
“Throughout your life, you’re going to have a lot of ups and downs and disappointments,” said Gabel. “It’s what you do that will prove people wrong. That’s something I go by each and every day. You’re only going to let yourself down at the end of the day if you don’t put in the hard work. Obviously [the Olympics] are still a dream of mine and that’s my end goal.”
Gabel possesses skill that would be immensely helpful to any team, and the Pride are reaping the benefits. She could become just the third player in the league’s eight-year history to finish a season with an average of 2 points per game. Even amongst the PHF’s best, she is the cream of the crop; her three goals and one assist in the league’s All-Star tournament Jan. 29 earned her MVP honors.
What sets Gabel apart? Her speed is remarkable. During a Feb. 4 game against the Metropolitan Riveters, she blazed up ice, outskating any defender assigned to her. When a teammate made a pass, she was in the exact place she needed to be, and she never hesitated to make the shot, leading the Pride with seven that night.
The combination of skating speed and quick decision-making is dangerous to the Pride’s opponents.
“A player like her has very quick hands,” said team president and 1998 Olympic gold medalist Colleen Coyne. “She has the ability to either beat you with her feet or her hands. She is always in the right place at the right time.”
Not surprisingly given Gabel’s dedication to hard work, her reaction time and skating skills are something she still seeks to improve. She regularly works with a Hockey Canada strength coach, even if it has to be remotely during the season.
“We have phone calls and we go over things that I want to work on or things I want to improve on,” said Gabel. “One of the biggest things is always improving my speed and trying to get faster. There’s always another level and I want to get to that next level each and every time.”
Gabel believes that playing in the PHF will take her game to the next level. She spoke to Pride coach Paul Mara for several years, despite initially choosing to play for the PWHPA. When she sought a more consistent playing and practice schedule, the choice was obvious.
Coyne hopes that Gabel’s fast success in the league is a message to other players trying to make a decision about their own pro futures.
“She is definitely a leader in that way,” said Coyne. “I hope she is having a good experience and that she’s talking to others about it. She can definitely speak to the level of play that she is seeing.”
The enjoyment Gabel is having with the Pride is evident. She hopes that it shows her doubters that her hard work continues and her passion has never waned.
“I’m enjoying hockey,” said Gabel. “I’m really loving it, and I’m living by PPW — prove people wrong. I’m going to continue to do that each and every day.”
Kat Cornetta can be reached at email@example.com.