Kristyn Capizzano could have been a figure skater.
When you see her now, all the skills needed to excel are right there—phenomenal skating ability, powerful strides across the ice, exceptional balance, and an abundance of creativity.
Thousands of girls around the world, and particularly in winter sports-crazed Canada, lace up their skates every morning with wild Olympic dreams running through their heads. The leotards, the pageantry, and the artistic value in figure skating make it one of the most popular amateur sports in the country.
Capizzano might have been great at figure skating, considering she’s been great at most every sport she’s tried.
There was just one problem—she hated every second of it.
“She’s just always loved hockey. Always,” her mother, Anna Capizzano, said. “We tried to give her figure skates, but she rejected those in favor of a stick and a puck. Once we bought her hockey equipment, we never looked back.”
So Capizzano swapped the leotard for a sweater, the white figure skates for the black hockey equivalents, and a permanent smile for a competitive glare.
Just as Capizzano’s parents never looked back, she has continued trudging forward, even when it stung her and her team. Now in her final season at Boston College, she’ll look to lead the Eagles to the National Championship that has long eluded the program.
Capizzano’s love affair with hockey began when it does for all good Canadian citizens—in the womb. Her father, Elio, played junior hockey when he was younger, and he passed down a love of Canada’s Pastime to his children.
The game came naturally to Capizzano, even from a young age, and she ran with it. Capizzano played in a boys’ league until she was 14, holding her own among her male counterparts until they eventually outgrew her.
When she switched over to a girls’ league at the beginning of high school, she dominated in such a fashion that she started to attract national attention.
After building a convincing case for herself, Capizzano was invited to try out for Canada’s U-18 IIHF World Championship women’s team in 2013. Not only did she earn a spot on the final roster and a trip to Finland, she was named captain of the team.
Canada dominated the group stage and the semifinal round, setting up a championship match against the United States (and future Boston College teammate Kenzie Kent). The heated contest came down to a winner-take-all overtime period, and Canada’s Karly Heffernan snuck one past Sidney Peters less than a minute into the stanza to clinch gold for the Canadians.
“To be able to travel all around the world, play with different players against the best of the best, it was an experience in itself,” Capizzano said. “I’ll never forget that.”
The tournament truly represented Capizzano’s value to a franchise—she showed up on the scoresheet, notching two points through those five games, but her biggest contribution was intangible. They don’t measure grit, motivational speeches, or fleeting pick-me-ups to struggling teammates in the post-game box score, but you can be sure that they make a difference.
“That win in the World Championship is one of the times in her life that I was most proud of her,” Anna said.
Under Capizzano’s leadership, that young, inexperienced, talented Canadian team realized its potential and came out on top. The circumstances, opponents, and venues might be different this time around, but she’ll look to do the same for BC this spring.
Four years ago, when it came time to pick a college, Capizzano knew she wanted to come to the U.S. She was given a number of schools to select from—in the end, her favorites were BC, Boston University, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin.
In the end, a convincing pitch from associate head coach Courtney Kennedy and the allure of BC’s storied athletic history, combined with playing for a head coach like Katie Crowley, moved the needle more than enough for the Capizzano family. Though they hadn’t even visited campus at that point, Capizzano made a firm commitment to play for the school down Comm. Ave.
It’s been a relatively scot-free ride for Capizzano thus far, and she hasn’t had to face many challenges. Given that life in the Toronto suburb of Oakville isn’t much different from life in Boston, the adjustment to her first extended stay in the U.S. wasn’t difficult.
Nor was the level of competition on the ice. Thrust into a prominent position as a freshman forward on a top team, Capizzano shined as one of BC’s most valuable role players. She notched 26 points in her first year, including three goals on the power play and three game-winning goals.
An oft-overlooked member of a team that has been perennially stacked with firepower, Capizzano has her first real chance to break out this year. She has been assigned a coveted red “A” on the shoulder of her jersey to represent her assistant captaincy—a tactile sign of greater responsibility. She opened the season manning the left wing on a line with Makenna Newkirk, who is expected to be one of BC’s biggest offensive weapons this season.
And though the 2016-17 season only began this past weekend, Capizzano speaks like she’s been a captain for decades.
“I think our greatest success, from my freshman year until now, is just how our team has grown,” Capizzano said, true to the clichéd nature of an experienced captain. “Watching players develop, certain people stepping up, assuming new roles has been pretty special.”
Though not physically imposing—at 5-foot-2, she’s second-shortest on the team behind Haley McLean—Capizzano presents problems for whichever defense she encounters. She’s a deft, smart skater who makes the right plays and does what she’s supposed to. Thanks to her relentlessness and her tenacity, she can score in a variety of ways.
Look no further than her performance in a preseason scrimmage against the Cambridge Rivulettes. About 10 minutes into the first period, Capizzano established position in between the faceoff circles in the offensive zone. Once there, she waited.
The puck whipped from the stick of Toni Ann Miano to her defensive partner, Megan Keller. With room to skate, Keller took one powerful stride toward the net and unleashed a low-flying slap shot. Capizzano fought through her defensive counterpart, got her stick on the designed deflection opportunity, and redirected the puck away from goaltender Caitlin Kroetsch into the back of the net.
Almost exactly five minutes later, Capizzano got sprung on a breakaway chance by Erin Connolly. With a creative deke, she found an opening just wide enough through Kroetsch’s five-hole to score the Eagles’ fifth goal of the game.
She can be pretty, she can be gritty, and she can be somewhere in between. But no matter how it looks, Capizzano gets the job done.
Capizzano certainly could have chosen figure skating over hockey. She might also have chosen soccer, a game she played at a high level until she had to give it up to dedicate all of her effort to her primary sport.
“Capi brings hard work, relentlessness, and a hunter’s instinct to the table,” Crowley said. “There’s never a time when she gives up. It’s a level of determination that our team needs, and it’s one we’ll absolutely feed off of.”
BC should count its lucky stars, though, that she chose ice hockey and that she chose the Eagles. Because her leadership, her experience, her playmaking, and her attitude will be invaluable deep in a postseason run.