Across four seasons in the Western Hockey League, Paul Gentile was a reliable defensive forward who provided countless intangibles to his quartet of clubs – the Saskatoon Blades, his hometown Calgary Hitmen, the Medicine Hat Tigers, and the Kamloops Blazers.
Today, the now 35-year-old serves his hometown community as a police officer, a position he has been in for just over three years after initially spending his post-school years in the oil and gas sector before making the jump to law enforcement.
“I am really enjoying it every day,” Gentile told Junior Hockey Magazine as part of its CHL Leaders segment. “Every day I enjoy it more and more, and there is something new every day. Nothing but good things to say.”
Although it’s been 14 years since he skated in the junior circuit, Gentile still enjoys attending local games, and recognizes that his time in hockey proved to be key formative years that laid the groundwork for his entrance into the professional world.
“The biggest thing that stands out in my mind is leaving home at 17,” Gentile detailed. “It’s still a fairly young age and I’m coming from a close family. I think that was the biggest thing, leaving that close family unit, that support system. I was fortunate in the cities that I played in that I had good billets and that really helped that transition.
“It also really taught you how to use your time-management skills. Playing in the WHL, you’re on the ice so often, and if you’re not on the road, you’re at home and really focused on your studies or getting to the rink to try to work on getting better. You really had to be diligent in trying to meet those goals, asking yourself every day how bad you wanted it and working toward that.”
Upon completing his final season with the Blazers in 2004-05, Gentile opted to continue is hockey career at the University of Calgary – in the process turning down an opportunity to play pro in Europe – in order to suit up for the varsity Dinos while also pursuing his education in economics, with a minor in business.
“When I was going into my 20-year-old season, there was a team in Italy that wanted me to go play over there, and I kind of just gave them a ‘thank you’ because I really wanted to take advantage of the scholarship opportunity that I had with the WHL,” Gentile explained. “Taking off that financial burden, having that scholarship, and coming out of university without having that student debt was a huge relief. It really let you focus on what you wanted to do in school as opposed to what you could afford or what you would put off until you’re done hockey.
“I figured that if I still wanted to play hockey after university, I could pursue that at that time. I didn’t want to keep playing hockey just for the sake that I could, or because people think I should. I think it’s really important to want to do it.”
Listen to Paul Gentile’s full interview with Junior Hockey Magazine here.