For those who follow the sport of ice hockey there’s always a story in how someone became a fan, and then potentially progressed into a player. Or, perhaps it was someone else that influenced a youngster towards hockey fandom, but the student then took things that much further to lace up the skates and play competitive ice hockey.
As for Kylie Gorham, of the Lightning High School Hockey League’s Durant Cougars, one of the team’s top defensemen was “born into hockey.”
The 15-year old and hockey go way back. Her father, Jamie Gorham, played the sport growing up and has been coaching for decades now. Though, Durant’s dynamic defenseman is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, where she may not remember watching her first hockey game as a fan.
“Our family had season tickets forever, so I was somehow able to convince her mother to let me take her to the games when she (Kylie) was so young and with her watching in my arms and lap basically,” said Jamie.
Let’s not forget, those first attended hockey games for a young Kylie Gorham were in St. Louis while cheering on the Blues. The now dynamic hockey defenseman that lives in the Tampa Bay area did give “a lot” of credit to her father in how she originally became interested in hockey, but it may have been her older brother that sparked her competitive nature that’s apparent both on and off of the ice.
Shortly after getting off of the ice for one of her hockey practices a laid back, yet confident, Gorham told stories on how she and her brother would go out in the driveway and play hockey around the age of five.
“My brother used to play and I always wanted to be better than him,” said Gorham reflecting back on her early hockey days with family back in St. Louis.
“So, I would try to do the stuff that he would do out there to play and we would shoot pucks in the driveway; and then see who had the better aim with their shooting, or whose shot would be harder,” said Gorham laughing, while looking over to her father who sat to the right of her.
Just for the record, Gorham won the Hardest Slapshot back in 2013 at a St. Louis Blues Youth Hockey Camp, too – friendly bragging rights for her on her older brother, right?
Gorham eventually transitioned from playing in the driveway and “just watching hockey” with her father, to helping “Dad” out on the ice when she was younger and while Coach Gorham was coaching High School practices.
“Kylie, before she started playing organized hockey, used to skate around and pick up pucks for me on the ice after my High School practices ended here at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum (ISF) nearly ten years ago,” said Coach Gorham. “And, it all went from there.”
Gorham eventually progressed to play for one of the most well-known travel ice hockey programs in the United States, St. Louis AAA Lady Blues. While skating with the Under-14 AAA Lady Blues, Gorham was a part of a team that clinched third place at USA Hockey Nationals during the 2016-2017 season.
In fact, AAA Lady Blues Head Coach Tommy Lange chimed in on Gorham’s play from last travel season and how she helped the Blues go to Nationals.
Kylie is ‘intense,’ and everything she did (with the blues) was intense and at full speed,” said Lange. “She’s the type of player that wears her heart on her sleeve.”
Yes, Gorham enjoys going back to St. Louis and “liked” playing on an all-girls team, but it seemed that the five-foot-seven defenseman enjoys skating with and against "the boys” more, at least currently.
“I don’t prefer playing all-girls hockey, but sometimes it can be a struggle with the guys,” said Gorham.
However, that “struggle” mentioned above may catch readers and future opponents by surprise.
“Boys aren’t ‘used’ to girls being on the ice with them,” said an enthusiastic Gorham. “So, they feel like they have to play differently, or that they can’t hit (body check) me.”
Yet, Gorham also acknowledged the other end of the spectrum when skating against guys and potentially being the “only girl” on a team.
“It all just depends, because some boys don’t feel like that at all and think they can just run straight over me, and it would be ‘easy’ or something,” said Gorham.
But there’s no doubting that Gorham can do more than hold her own out on the ice with the guys, and has also established herself as both a tough and physical opponent to skate against. All one has to do is ask one of her former coaches in John Drysdale, and then her current High School Hockey Head Coach too.
“I believe that her greatest trait as hockey player was her grit, which comes from within,” said John Drysdale. Coach Drysdale coached Gorham at the Bantam AA level with the Jr. Bulls, who are based out of ISF in Brandon.
Drysdale continued to explain how his former defenseman “played a physical style” of defense and “dished out many hard body checks.” The Bulls’ coach even mentioned another interesting element to Gorham’s play on the blue line.
“She always worked very hard in practice and helped teach her teammates to play with their heads up, or they might find themselves victim to her physical play,” said Drysdale. “That element earned her the utmost respect from all of her teammates and coaches.”
While the sophomore defenseman and her Durant teammates are playing their first season together in the LHSHL, it’s more than apparent that number “74” for the Navy and Gold has already left a similar impression on the Cougars too.
“Although Kylie’s only a sophomore, she leads by example with her work ethic,” said Durant Head Coach Todd Comunale.
The Cougars’ Head Coach then referenced how he had seen Gorham play before she joined Durant, and watched her play with the Bulls.
“I’ve been telling people for a few years now that she was the toughest player on the Bantam travel team, and she continues to excel in the physicality department on today’s varsity squad,” said Comunale. “It’s not easy battling big power-forwards in front of your own net, but she does a great job at keeping that area clear.”
When asked if male skaters appear “surprised” after she may dish out a big hit to them, Gorham couldn’t help but humbly laugh.
“Oh yeah, I get a lot of those ‘looks’,” said Gorham. “I get a lot of those surprised looks.”
No, Gorham doesn’t hesitate to stand up to her fellow male opponents out on the frozen tundra, but the Cougars’ sophomore defenseman also acknowledged the challenges that come with skating against guys and how important it is to be aware of her body position at all times while playing.
“I need to be careful with guys my age being physically stronger than I am out there,” said Gorham. “So I need to know how to be positioned correctly at all times, because if I’m not paying attention or if I’m not standing the right way or something, I will get hurt.”
Still, Gorham has embraced her new role with Durant and expressed that she enjoys being around her new teammates – even if she is the only girl.
“Oh yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun,” nodded Gorham. “This is the first time I feel like I’ve liked everyone on a team, and I think we all just gel really well.”
Gorham also assured that this isn’t the first time she’s been the only girl on a team, either. So, that should speak volume to her Durant teammates and coaches. Durant’s Head Coach also elaborated more on her play and how Gorham is as a teammate, too.
“Here’s a teammate who ‘goes to work’ at every practice and puts forth the great effort,” added Comunale. “She’s as unselfish as a player can be, always focusing on the team’s success and willing to sacrifice personal accolades. Who wouldn’t want to play for a teammate like that?”
In addition to being described by many as a great “puck moving defenseman,” and her “smooth skating” abilities, Gorham is also enrolled with the International Baccalaureate Program at Strawberry Crest High School in Dover, Florida. The fact that she’s able to balance her “rigorous” school courses and hockey is what may impress her High School Head Coach the most out of anything, as well.
“Juggling ice hockey with a heavy academic workload; that may be what I’m most impressed with,” said Comunale.
But, perhaps it was hockey that originally influenced Gorham on how to successfully “juggle” and multitask sports and academics.
“I think hockey has taught be to be humble and given me better time management skills, especially with balancing homework at the IB Program,” said the defenseman.
Not even thinking too far ahead, Gorham was asked if she’ll “aspire to go on and play at higher levels of ice hockey” after High School. An Eager Kylie Gorham didn’t even hesitate to dive right into things; and also mention how attending numerous hockey camps, such as the USA Women’s Select & Development Camp, have been both fun and eye opening experiences.
Keep in mind, the former Lady Blues’ skater was also one of three defensemen to be selected to take part in the US Women’s Select & Development Camp that recently took place at Wesley Chapel; and the annual camp does attract female hockey players from around the Nation each year. This past year, it was at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley, Chapel, which is just outside of Tampa.
The US Women’s National Team is now based out of that facility, and as most recent as this past summer. Perhaps that’s a sign for Gorham to pursue her hockey abilities that much further.
“I definitely want to play D1 (NCAA Division I Ice Hockey), especially after watching all of them play (US Women’s National Team) and the puck movement and everything,” said a star-eyed Gorham. “They can wheel, that’s for sure.”
Gorham also portrayed more of her humor after commenting on being able to see the US Women’s team play more often, now.
“It was so exciting getting to watch them, especially beating up on all of the men’s teams that they played,” expressed Gorham.
Yes, Gorham is tough, wears her heart on the sleeve of her hockey sweater and can “wheel out there,” but it seems that the youngster is and will always be a teammate first. No matter if it’s with an all-girls team, or not.
Perhaps Kylie Gorham will impact a future skater’s story and in the Tampa Bay area with Women’s Hockey.
(The Lightning High School Hockey League can be followed on Twitter @TBLHSHL)