If you're reading this article, my guess is that you're interested in finding out how to get pro hockey tryouts for yourself.
You're in luck...
In this post, we will specifically be discussing the best path to get pro hockey tryouts and how to play pro hockey in Europe since that's what our agency specializes in.
Whether you previously played juniors, NCAA/USports, or elsewhere...you are now in a position where you want to continue playing at a high level.
Continuing to play hockey at a competitive level in Europe can be an incredible option.
How To Get Professional Hockey Tryouts
So how do you actually get a pro team interested to either sign you or at minimum offer you a pro hockey tryout (PTO)?
In reality, it first starts with an honest evaluation of your level of play.
Are you coming out of NCAA or USports with good stats?
Just finishing up juniors?
Been away from the game for a while with injuries or another reason?
My guess is that you don't have the flashiest CV...but you may certainly have the drive, work ethic, and potential to prove you can play hockey at a higher level.
Your playing experience "on paper" definitely impacts how you are perceived initially by teams, therefore, your approach will have to be based with this in mind....more on this later.
Over the past 5-10 years, the skill level across most hockey leagues in N America and Europe has improved greatly. In Europe, this means that if you are an import player looking to play there, your skill level needs to be on par with top-tier players in that league to justify a clubs decision to sign you.
Teams don't look to use import spots on a 4th liners or a backup goalies. You can certainly come from a previous team where that was your role, but that’s not likely going to be your role as an import.
If they're paying you, they expect you to carry out your role to the best of your ability (ex: point production, penalty kill, leadership, saves)
Luckily, there are a wide range of hockey leagues all across the EU depending on your level of play....
Many leagues are considered professional while others are semi professional hockey leagues.
Pro Hockey Leagues in Europe
You have leagues such as Sweden Division 1 and Ligue Magnus to the Alps Hockey League and Suomi Sarja.
As we move through the remainder of this post, we'll go over the general level of players that a number of these expect in an import player...
What type of hockey leagues in Europe are realistic for you?
Unless you were a top collegiate player (NCAA/USports), have strong major junior experience (OHL/WHL/QMJHL), or already possess pro experience in an elite league, you can eliminate the top-tier leagues in Europe as viable options for you in Europe. We covered this at length in our piece on ice hockey agencies.
Over time, you might be able to itch your way up to a few of these leagues down the road based on great on ice play, but you're not at this point currently.
In dominant hockey countries such as Sweden, the top 3 leagues carry strong import players throughout their rosters.
Look at any Sweden Division 1 Hockey (known as HockeyEttan) roster and you will usually find a couple N American imports with previous NCAA/USports experience under their belt. We've helped place a number of players here who were underdogs. For this to happen, you need to give these clubs good reason on why to select you when they have strong local talent already in their system locally.
Stepping down one league below HockeyEttan to a league such as Sweden Division 2 and you will find a wide mix of import players. Imports here may possess top junior experience up to players with decent collegiate (NCAA/USports) or pro experience already under their belt.
There's a ton of quality teams in Sweden Division 2.
That's just one example....
Throughout Europe, there are a solid number of quality mid to lower-tier leagues where you can play as an import. This is important to know if you haven't played in Europe yet.
In France, you also have France2 (France Division 1 hockey) & France3 (France Division 2 Hockey).
Ligue Magnus is the top league in the country. Each year though, the level of imports in France2 hockey keeps getting stronger.
Look at any imports on a France2 roster and you'll likely find players with a combination of major junior, USports, & strong playing experience on their resume.
The allure of playing hockey in France while living in a beautiful place makes it an easy sell too.
Fun fact: Anglet (currently in Ligue Magnus) home ice arena is located just meters away from the Atlantic Ocean (pictured below).
Not a bad way to spend the rest of your day after a hard training session.
In France2, you also have a number of A+ cities where teams are located ranging from Marseille (pictured below) to teams based in French Alps like Mont-Blanc.
Let's cover a few more leagues...
In Finland, you have Suomi Sarja.
Suomi can be a great initial place for a 1st year pro in Europe to prove themselves. We have experience placing a number of players in Suomi Sarja, who’ve ranged from strong junior players to an NCAA graduate looking to further his career abroad.
Mestis is another strong league in Finland, but there's so many quality loans available from their affiliate clubs in Liiga. This makes the 2nd league in Finland a less common destination for carrying N. American imports.
In Germany, you have Germany3 (Oberliga), Germany 4 hockey & even Germany5.
You might be wondering at first glance...."is the level of import players in a Germany3 & 4 any good?"
The answer is yes.
Germany is another place we've helped our players sign in over the years, from DEL2 down to Germany4. In Germany3 and Germany4, strong N American imports routinely play here and enjoy their time in German greatly.
Regarding the level of play in Germany3 (Oberliga), you should have top junior, collegiate, or pro experience if you want a club to consider you for an import role.
We've even had a former NHL draft pick sign in Germany4.....the money they offered him was great, but I use this example to show that playing here in Germany is no easy walk in the park.
A number of German clubs in these leagues are able to pay imports well, making it a great place to play hockey in Europe.
We won't exhaustively cover all the leagues here that we mentioned in how much do hockey players make in Europe, but the above examples provide a sound understanding for you.
Now that we've covered a small variety of countries/leagues above, let's move into the all important step.
How do you now get these pro clubs in Europe to care about you enough to sign you as an import?
Your first option is to be so good (draft pick, NCAA standout) that they come to you, but since you're reading this post...that's likely not the case.
The next best option is to work with someone who has actual connections with a wide range of pro clubs across Europe and in turn, can actually help you in landing a potential best club for you based on your situation.
We might be able to help you with the latter of these two options since we’ve been doing this for years.
If you made it to the end of this article and are still excited at the idea of playing pro hockey in Europe, send us a message here.
We'll let you know if we can help you in your pursuit!