So you want to play pro hockey in Europe, right?
Not only do you want to continue playing the game you love...
...but you also desire the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture both on and off the ice.
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The wonderful thing about pro hockey in Europe is that the EU is full of such a wide variety of leagues. These leagues are spread across dozens on countries.
Geographies from one country to the next may differ greatly. Sure, the Scandinavian countries have a number of similarities. But two countries like France and Slovakia have quite a contrast.
You don't need to be drafted to the NHL or be a top-tier Div 1 NCAA player in order to play overseas either.
It definitely can't hurt, but more often than not, most players that we help land on teams overseas don't fall into that category.
This is normal.
Maybe you were a late bloomer...
Maybe you've continued to elevate your game the past few seasons during university (or you just finished juniors).
Possibly all of the above...
Whatever specific situation you're in right now, you came to this article because you want to play professional hockey in Europe.
We'll break this article into 3 parts:
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There are many perks of playing hockey overseas.
Living abroad and experiencing a new culture sits near the top of the list.
Countless people dream of traveling to Europe for vacation one day. When you play hockey overseas, you get the best of both worlds.
World Travel + Hockey
Yes. You are there to work and perform a job on the ice.
But the European pro hockey league schedule is lighter (game wise) than it is in North America. A number of leagues even have a few weeks off per season during national team breaks. This time can be spent traveling abroad, traveling home (holidays), or on extra training during the season.
When it comes to the culture of playing in Europe, it's important to mention that if you speak English....you're in luck.
People in some countries speak English more fluently than others. If you're speaking to someone under 50, there's a strong likelihood they speak some of the language if not fluently.
We have players in Scandinavia who swear that locals speak better English than themselves.
Tip: we recommend you to try learn some basic words and phrases. Not only will this help you learn, but it's also a sign to the locals there that you are giving an effort. It also shows that you have interest in their culture.
Unlike foreign language class in high school, it's easier to pick up the basics of a language when you're living there.
discuss what it's like to play overseas...link to experience (need more players)
2. Pro Hockey in Europe- Salary
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How much do teams in Europe pay players?
It differs greatly. This question is often misunderstood.
I'll try to break it down into 4 brackets below so that it's easier to understand.
A) NHL/AHL experience
Hockey players with years of pro experience (NHL/AHL) on the highest end, they can make substantial money.
Depending on the country, salary can differ greatly even for high caliber players. If you haven't had a "cup of coffee" in the NHL or played consistently at the AHL level, it's going to be quite hard to crack the very best leagues in Europe (those being NLA, KHL, SHL, etc).
Moving down from here, you have 2-3 more levels broadly speaking.
B) ECHL/Top Div 1 NCAA experience
For players who may have modest ECHL or top Div 1 NCAA experience, they may find fits in Europe where they are making decent money.
Similar to what an average teachers salary back home in N. America would be.
This salary will vary based on the league, your hockey CV, the clubs budget/sponsors, and so on....but it's a good baseline.
In the EIHL for example, many players who've played in the ECHL will come over to England to play, make a little bit of money, and the club will pay for them to complete their masters degree or MBA during the season.
Sure...some players prefer to focus on hockey alone, but it's a great option for those looking to continue their education.
C) NCAA Div 1/High end NCAA Div 3/USports, etc
For players who have completed university (or they're leaving early), this is a great time to be exploring options to play pro hockey in Europe.
Without the help of an agency, it's going to be tough to navigate and land a good team. Since we've worked with teams for years, we've been able to build up enough connections to be able to put you in contact with a wide range of teams.
Salary and pay will differ based on your hockey CV and the teams budget.
Ex: One club in a league may be able to offer $1000/mo (tax-free) while another in the same league is not able to pay that for all their import players. Others may be able to pay much more or less.
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If it's your first season in Europe and you haven't played overseas before, it's quite common to make a little less money in your first season abroad.
In our opinion, coaches & GMs overvalue stats on paper at times so if you don't have rock solid stats, you'll need to work hard. You'll then be able to earn better pay after year 1.
D) Juniors/ACHA experience
For younger players who are aging out of juniors or have just finished playing ACHA to pro hockey now, it's going to be a little harder and take more work to land a solid club.
That's the honest truth....
Luckily, we have strong connections and there's a wide variety of leagues across Europe that can still align well for you based on your level of play.
We've had a number of our players start out in a mid-to-lower leagues their 1st season overseas.
After a year of playing well, many of them have moved up.
As I mentioned above, teams in Europe rely heavily on your hockey stats, level of play, and scouting. If you're coming from this level, it's quite tough for clubs to evaluate your game in comparison to the strength of their league.
Many clubs are able to cover the core parts for you:
- ITC (International Transfer Card- you need this before you can play matches in new country)
- Equipment (team sticks, gloves/pants)
- Housing (setups vary per team)
Some are able to arrange pay in the form of small salary or instead they'll offer a few hours a week of coaching/work on the side (each team handles this differently).
If you're a player in this position who is reading this right now, it's important for you to understand the following...
You want the ability to actually land a team in Europe and get pro games under your belt, right? You're not going to do that sitting at home thinking that you're too good for a small 1st year offer.
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Many players of ours who have excelled have been the ones who were willing to be more flexible with contract conditions.
When you do this, you become more attractive to clubs and they are more willing to take a chance on you.
Once you're in Europe and prove yourself on the ice, it only goes up from there.
But you need that opportunity....that's where we come in.
3. Landing a Team in Europe
Whether you're a recent graduate who is looking to continue their hockey journey overseas or you're a late bloomer, our agency is here to help you in your pursuit.
If you're serious about your desire to play the game you love overseas, send us a message today.
We look forward to speaking with you