The Surrey Eagles continue to look south of the border when building their team for the 2020/’21 BC Hockey League season.
And this time, they’ve reached far south, signing Florida resident Connor Gatto for the coming year.
Though a native of The Sunshine State, the 2001-born forward – described in a team-issued news release as a “skilled, two-way centreman who battles hard up and down the rink” – joins the Birds from the National Collegiate Development Conference, which is based in the northeast United States.
In 49 games with the Massachusetts-based Islanders Hockey Club, Gatto – listed as five-foot-seven and 155 pounds – scored 14 goals and added 26 assists.
“I’m very excited,” he said in a news release.
“I’ve never played in Canada before, so that’ll be pretty interesting. I’m ready to start playing in a new league with a great reputation.”
Whenever the new season hits the ice – there may well be COVID-19-related delays – Gatto would take up the team’s sixth and final import spot on the Eagles’ roster, joining a slew of fellow Americans – Owen Nolan, Wyatt Schlaht, Brett Bliss, Kenny Riddett and Matt Connor.
Gatto said his relationship with Eagles head coach Cam Keith cemented his decision to come north.
“He really likes me and I really enjoyed talking to him. I know the (BCHL) is great, and I knew I could play in a better league, so I said, ‘Why not? Let’s give it a shot.’”
Despite junior teams across the country being in something of a holding pattern for much of this spring due to the uncertainly surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eagles have remained fairly busy preparing for the to-be-determined new season. In addition to adding Gatto, the team has recently signed Montreal native Tio D’Addario and Ontario’s Cole Galata, and traded forward Hassan Akl and defenceman Jordan Hendry – a South Surrey native – to Fort McMurray of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.