Goalie Katherine Purchase kept positive during concussion recovery
Concordia Stingers women’s hockey goalie Katherine Purchase earned a shutout in her first start this regular season on Jan. 13 against the Carleton Ravens. Purchase missed the first half of the season due to a concussion, and felt relieved when she was able to play hockey again.
“It’s pretty frustrating [to recover from a concussion], especially when it’s your first one,” Purchase said. “There are a lot of ups and downs, and it’s not really a steady comeback […]. Some days, I would feel really good and the next, terrible, so it would be discouraging. I just had to keep believing I was going to get better.”
The fifth-year goalie suffered the concussion while at a training camp with the Canadian national team in Dawson Creek, B.C. in September. In an exhibition game against a men’s Junior B team, an opposing player collided with her, with his leg hitting her head.
While Purchase was recovering from the head injury, she was also diagnosed with mononucleosis, but ultimately the concussion was what kept her out of action for so long. “The toughest thing was to not be around the team at all, and I went a whole month without seeing them,” Purchase said. “Especially with all the rookies this year, I wanted to get to know those new girls.”
The accounting student also had to stay away from school for a while, but returned in November and passed her classes last semester. When she returned to the ice, Purchase said she couldn’t put the emotions she felt into words. “It felt like I had to relearn how to play hockey, because I hadn’t been on in so long,” she said.
Purchase hadn’t played for the Stingers since winning bronze at nationals last March, and returned to action at the Theresa Humes Tournament in December. After allowing six goals in a losing effort to the Syracuse Orange on Dec. 30, Purchase said it helped shake the dust off and get back to her usual skill level.
In the team’s first regular-season game of 2019 against the McGill Martlets, Purchase replaced Alice Philbert, who allowed five goals in the third period, and she’s played every game since. With Purchase as the starter, the Stingers have a 5-0-1 record, while she has a 1.28 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. She’s helped the Stingers climb into second place in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), and the fifth-year just wants to keep winning.
“Knowing that I’ve missed a lot of time and that our team is trying to get some momentum going into the playoffs, I don’t think there’s time to think about anything else,” Purchase said. “Everytime you step onto the ice, you’re trying to go for a win and nothing else matters. [Playing] has kind of helped block out all the noise that creeps into your head.”
Purchase and the Stingers are focused on one thing, and that’s to defend their RSEQ championship and have success at nationals. “We still have a very talented team and we have the ability to win a national championship, so that’s always the expectation in this program,” she said, adding that she’s well-rested after missing the first few months of the season.
For a second consecutive year, Purchase was voted co-captain, along with Devon Thompson, by her teammates. Goalies can’t wear the ‘C’ on their jersey but, despite this, head coach Julie Chu praises Purchase for her vocal leadership on and off the ice.
“We’re always emphasizing communication as much as we can, and it’s not just our forwards with the forwards, the defencemen with the other defencemen, but everyone involved, including the goalies,” Chu told The Concordian in an interview in October. “Katherine is really understanding that role.”
Thompson, the only one to have played alongside Purchase for five seasons, also told The Concordian in November that her goalie is a big leader. “People think that because she’s a goalie, she sticks to herself, but she’s always had a really big voice in the locker room,” Thompson said.
This is Purchase’s last season with the Stingers, and she said it feels surreal that her journey at Concordia is coming to an end. She will be moving to Toronto in May to complete her Chartered Professional Accountant courses, and has a job lined up for September. Toronto has two teams in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the Markham Thunder and Toronto Furies. At the moment, Purchase isn’t sure if she will be able to play professionally while working a full-time job.
The goalie said she’s enjoyed the family culture the Stingers have developed, and how she’s gotten along well with her teammates throughout the years.
“I’m going to miss Julie and Mike [McGrath, an assistant coach] so, so, so much, and just that feeling of coming to practice in an environment where everyone supports you and wants the best for you,” Purchase said.
“I really can’t complain about my time here,” she added. “If someone gave me the chance to redo everything over again, I wouldn’t take it because I would be scared to mess up. I wouldn’t want to be at any other school in Canada or the U.S., I can’t believe how lucky I am that I ended up here.”
Main photo by Hannah Ewen