Robert Morris alumna Anissa Gamble scored her final collegiate goal during the last regular season home game of the 2015-16 season.
Two weeks later, she played what appeared to be the final game of her career as the Colonials bowed out of the CHA Tournament in a loss to Mercyhurst.
But Gamble’s love for the game endured and she set about finding a way to continue her career. That process culminated on Sunday when the right wing was selected by the Calgary Inferno in the eighth round of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League entry draft.
Her road to the professional ranks wasn’t necessary unique, but was shaped by one very important event at the beginning.
“When I was in high school, I actually practiced with a CWHL team, the Mississauga Chiefs, once or twice a week,” Gamble explained. “After one practice, three of my idols — Cheryl Pounder, Sami Jo Smalls and Jennifer Botterill — led a team wide vote, and asked if they should make this league into a professional league. They pointed at me, at the time I was 15 or 16, and said it would be for kids like her who can play professionally later on in life.”
When she received the phone call Sunday informing her of her selection, the impact of that day wasn’t lost on her.
“It really came full circle for me, and I’m really proud to be a part of it. It’s really exciting.”
Gamble has spent her time since RMU as a graduate student at the University of Alberta, where she’s studying for her masters in experimental surgery. On a rather large research team for diabetes, balancing hockey and academics has been a bit tough, but after playing a season with the players that have graduated from the university she felt like she needed more competition. The closest professional team is the Inferno, and she already was spending plenty of time in the city.
“I knew a couple of players on the Inferno,” she said. “I talked to their GM, told her my situation and she advised me to apply for the draft and be an alternate player – a call up player, essentially. So I put my name in the draft and now I’ll go to training camp with the team.”
There will be an increased opportunity for Gamble to compete with the Inferno this season because of the 2018 Winter Olympics intersecting with the season.
“We will be going through a lot of changes this season with many of our players centralized with Team Canada to train for and participate in the Olympics in South Korea,” Inferno general manager Kristen Hagg said in a statement. “We still have a strong veteran presence with new talent coming in.”
Gamble has remembered the valuable lessons that she had learned at RMU under the same coaching staff that has produced numerous professional picks throughout the past five years. Gamble will join fellow alumnae Rebecca Vint and Kristen Richards as former Colonials that have skated in the CWHL.
“We’re a new program,” Gamble said. “While playing for RMU we had such a strong work ethic and a community atmosphere that it’s getting much harder to not draft players from our team. I think our coaching staff did a terrific job at that; having that work ethic and never being satisfied. I’m so excited to see our program in ten years. I think we’re going to be a threat to the NCAA at a national level.”
Meanwhile, at RMU’s Island Sports Center, a group of new Colonials is suiting up for the first time, Gamble has one bit of advice for them:
“Savor each moment. It goes by so quickly. As long as you put one foot in front of the other and get better each and every day. You’re growing along with the women’s game.”