Five years ago Stephan Gale signed a contract to enlist with the United States Marine Corps. It was then that Gale abandoned thoughts of playing any competitive hockey beyond his years in high school.
Gale’s assumptions were incorrect. After serving the United States in Iraq, Gale returned home and began researching colleges. He settled on New York University and has found himself a spot on the NYU blueline.
NYU couldn’t have asked for a more prototypical blue line force. Gale is 6’3” 250 pounds and plays a physical, stay-at-home style.
“Because of my size, I’m not the quickest guy,” Gale said. “ But that is why I play defense. I love to hit, it has been my game since I was allowed to start hitting.”
Gale is also quick to defend his teammates. One of the traits he credits the Marines with helping to develop. His time in the corps forged a personality that many of his NYU teammates admire.
“If anything happens on the ice, [Stephan] is the first one in there,” captain Richie Pallai said. “I know if I was on the other team and saw how big he was, I would take a step back too.”
Pallai, who is wearing a letter for NYU for the second-straight season, has seen the impact Gale has made on the ice and in the locker room.
“He is never negative about anything,” Pallai said. “He is always able to keep things in perspective. We have a good team this year but we are very young. Having that point of view helps out a lot.”
Pallai noted that Gale takes everything in stride, happy to be part of the team. That was echoed by Gale, who described himself as someone who leads by example, rather than being a rah-rah type of leader.
“Being in the Marines teaches you leadership, whether you’re looking for it or not,” Gale said. “A few guys come up to me looking for advice, but I’m not trying to put it out there. I feel like I provide a little maturity to the team.”
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Gale was getting his legs back under him. Despite having ingrained leadership skills, Gale’s hockey IQ and on-ice stamina deteriorated in the five years he was out of the game.
“The first day of training camp was tough,” Gale said. “I had been out of hockey for so long I barely recognized what a practice looked like. I knew I didn’t have my hockey legs yet. It was far more intense than what I remembered.
“Coming in, I thought I would come in and be one of the bigger, stronger guys on the team. I learned quickly that if you don’t skate, you lose it.“
Gale did have plenty of cross training and stamina based on his training from the Marine Corps. He did note that the cross over to skating was the biggest adjustment he had to make.
Both he and Pallai noted that he has found a groove in terms of the contributions he is making on the ice as of late. The five-year absence from competitive hockey was the biggest culprit in Gale’s adjustment period. Simply having the opportunity to play at the collegiate level is enough for Gale right now.
“After signing my contract to join the Marines, college hockey was out of the questions for me,” Gale said. “I’m grateful to be able to play at such a high level. I’m even more grateful to be playing with such a great group of guys like I have here at NYU.”
Gale has taken advantage of the opportunity to complete his hockey career. Something he abandoned when he left to serve the United States. While he is grateful for the chance to play with his teammates at NYU, they would be quick to point out their gratefulness of Gale’s service to the nation.