Different side of the world, completely different game.
The speed and skill of the game changes from college, although the schedule is very similar, most games are played during the week and depending on the club you may have a weekend day off, like Saturday. Most players at Division 2 and 3 level have skill but the hockey sense can vary, similar to college. These players are more precise in their shooting and passing skills and it is a proving ground for guys looking to earn contracts further up the ladder or in other countries. Again, those looking to move up compete all the way but, that doesn’t mean every player will be as invested as others.
Players also come from various pedigrees, last season I played on a team with a former SHL player who was drafted to the NHL. He considered himself retired and played for fun which meant he played only home games and came to practice when he could. On the other spectrum, you have players who grew up in the organization and never played anywhere else their entire career. These guys are more in it to have fun still and play at a competitive level. Most teams have imports who are there as hockey travelers and others trying to create a name for themselves. Needless to say, there’s a lot of variation in the type of team you could have and who could be on your team.
On the ice, the first 30 minutes are usually dedicated to individual skill drills, as a goalie this means a lot of you and the shooter. In college, this may have been a warm-up drill to get everyone going. Practices stay at a strict hour and fifteen-minute interval with not a lot of conditioning skates. Like a university team, they expect that you will be in shape for the season.
It’s a bit of a jump to transition from a post-secondary institution to minor pro in Europe, but if you are willing to grind through a year or so you begin to build a reputation for yourself. Stay focused, keep your routine and allow yourself enough time to rest too. Make sure you have a strong support system locally and at home to help you through the rough patches and do yourself a favor, learn enough of the language to get by and ask people for help it will save you a lot of headaches traveling and in practices.
If you have any questions or comments regarding the transition from college to minor pro in Europe feel free to connect with me on Twitter or Instagram @altsy01.
It becomes whatever you make it.