Standout centre Cristine Chao credits her brother as biggest influence
During the North Region quarterfinal between Earl Haig and Sir John A. Macdonald, one player threaded the needle so often she could have made a quilt by the end of the game.
Skating around her opponents was Cristine Chao, a grade 9 whose on-ice prowess comes from eight years of playing hockey on the bantam AA boys hockey team, Toronto City Blues.
“My brother (Anthony) was playing and my mom would take me to their games,” Chao said of her hockey origins. “She actually started me in figure skating and I wouldn’t do some of the more girly moves.
“So then I was like, ‘Mom, can I play hockey?’ and she said, ‘No’,” Chao added. “One year later she signed me up and I started to play.”
Chao’s abilities and on-ice intelligence are giving her Earl Haig coach, Mike Canzi, reasons to be optimistic.
“She’s a really good resource to have to actually help in coaching the other girls and improving on their skills,” he said.
Most of Haig State’s roster includes grade 9s and 10s. Due to that closeness in age, the girls hang out with each other both on the ice and off.
Canzi takes a moment to joke with his rookie, who is quiet during her chat with the Town Crier.
“She’s become more vocal over the year,” he said. “I think part of it being a grade 9, she wasn’t unsure, but thought observe and see how the team works first.
“Through that leadership, you don’t get permission, but you start to express yourself more.”
Even though Chao is a freshman, she’s already looking at scholarships. She wouldn’t be the first alumna to head south for hockey. Tara Gray, who played for the Toronto Aeros, went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth on a full scholarship.
When asked why she loves Canada’s game, she gives a smile matching the curvature of her hockey stick’s blade.
“It’s different from other sports because it’s all on your feet, so you have to multitask,” she said. “You have to learn to skate, it’s intense and it’s just the feeling that you get when you play.”
As for the game against the Black Scots on Feb. 28, Haig State won 9-0. Chao had a hat trick and set up her teammates on three other markers, paving their way to a semi-final match against Northview Heights.