Meet Colgate Hockey’s Newest Olympian: International Superstar Kas Betinol

It has been a long, winding road for Colgate student-athlete Kas Betinol. After stints with Canadian junior hockey teams, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, a Russian professional team, the Chinese National team and now Colgate, the Alberta native known as “Bets” or “Betsy” on the ice grew up and thrived in a hockey-centric environment.

Betinol started skating and playing hockey at the age of four. She credits her two older brothers “who were always at the rink” as a major influence in her hockey interest, a passion that now consumes so much of her life. In her youth, Betinol played with boys in the small town of Okotoks, Alberta, only a 35-minute drive outside of Calgary. It was the birthplace of a now vast and well-traveled hockey career including consistent selection for Team Alberta. During her sophomore year of high school, playing hockey turned from a hobby into a potential career. “In 10th grade, I realized that I could do something with hockey and go further than the minor[s].”

Moving away from the comfort of her home, she found herself in Penticton, British Columbia, enrolling at the Okanagan Hockey Academy. “We were on the ice every day practicing and working out […] that was probably the most pivotal moment of my life,” said Betinol. “Just living with a billet family learning to live away from my parents and focus more on hockey to try and chase my dreams.” 

For the three years she lived in BC, her billet families were her sense of comfort. “They were always so supportive. Just made it feel like a second home.” Eight hours away from home, they represented the individuals who would be there whenever she needed them. 

That third year in British Columbia was when Betinol really announced herself as a force. While she had been successful for Okanagan, with 30 points in 21 games in the CSSHL U18 Women in 2017-18, her 2018-19 season with the Pursuit of Excellence was astounding — she had 50 points including 29 goals in 28 games, scoring more than a goal per game.

“That year was probably one of my favorite years. Two girls at Colgate now, Danielle Serdacny and Dara Greig, played on that team. [We were] very talented and very skilled so it made our graduation year very fun for sure. One of the best teams I’ve been on.” Betinol’s Pursuit of Excellence team concluded the year by going undefeated and winning the CSSHL U18 league championship and the prestigious Stony Creek tournament in Ontario.

Her success in that 2019 season didn’t end with the Pursuit of Excellence. After placing 5th at nationals with Team Alberta, two years later Betinol and her teammates were back for the Canada Winter Games, a multi-sport competition for Canada’s top athletes. 

“It was a pretty cool experience because we were supposed to be the underdogs. We lost our first game 6-0 to BC.” However, the initial underdogs turned it around to win gold. “I think to experience all the girls buying into what the coaches were saying and just the whole team system is what got us gold. It was really cool just to be a part of something that was so collectively earned.”

The next two years playing in the NCAA for Betinol were also very fulfilling. “Coming to the States has always been my dream.” But after two years, Betinol decided to take a year off and go abroad to play for professional Russian team KRS Vanke Rays in preparation for a new opportunity: The Olympics.

When the Asian-Canadian was asked why she chose the Chinese national team, she responded “I was a part of Hockey Canada’s development team program in the summer of 2019, but when I got the call to go to the Olympics right away as a 20-year old, I couldn’t resist.”

“It’s not every day that you get the chance to represent your heritage […] so I think that was very cool, and obviously, the Olympics being in China and just the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd with as many fans as COVID allowed, it was really cool for sure.”

Even after her preparations in Europe, nothing could’ve compared to the biggest international stage. “It was surreal. I was walking through the opening ceremonies just speechless. Just being able to stand alongside the best athletes in the world was unbelievable, whether that was watching them compete or just eating next to them, just kind of sharing the same experience.”

Meeting individuals such as Shaun White and Nathan Chen was “unreal.” Betinol specifically mentioned her experience trading pins as one of the highlights from The Games. “Every country is given their own pins, and then you go around and talk to other people from other countries and try to trade pins with other countries. I know that Australia didn’t get that many, so everyone wanted an Australia pin.”

Making the Olympics was already a commendable achievement for the then 20-year-old, but scoring what would be later named her favorite career goal just put it over the top. “My skills coach, [Mason Baptiste, and I] were working on the same skill all year, and I had been trying it, but it just wouldn’t quite work. [But] on the world’s biggest stage I was able to pull it off and kind of wrap up the entire journey.” 

It was only a couple of months later when Betinol would find herself amongst the same teammates playing for Team China at the World Championships. “Having the Olympic experiences and then the Worlds too was really cool, and then obviously winning and being able to get China to the next level and set them up for more success was really special.”

Now in her first year at Colgate, Betinol is excited to embrace the challenge of being in yet another new situation. “I love it [at Colgate], it’s a smaller campus but it’s been really fun to walk around and run into people you know. The coaching staff and professors have been really supportive throughout the transition here and the team has been really great. The girls are awesome.” 

The Raiders, coming off an ECAC championship and a heartbreaking loss in the NCAA Regional Finals, will be looking to go all the way this year. 10-0-0 so far this season, the Raiders’ next test will be against a #7 ranked Quinnipiac team, but they have no doubt that they can lift a banner this year.