Morell’s Stephen Anderson managed to start his professional hockey career on the right foot this season, despite many leagues around the world not even playing due to the pandemic.
Anderson returned to Canada in late March after a strong half-season with DVTK Jegesmedvek, a Hungarian team that plays in the Slovakian league. He scored six goals and 19 points in 24 games and finished the year on DVTK’s top line.
“It was kind of a wacky year, so just being able to get somewhere and play some games was a positive,” he said. “I was playing really good at the end, so my line was playing 20 to 25 minutes a night. We were huffing and puffing at the end of some games.”
Although his team finished 11th of 12 teams and missed the playoffs, it was a season full of new experiences, from adjusting to the European game to the cities and culture.
Hungary announced 14,000 cases on his last day there and pandemic restrictions kept him from doing a great deal of exploring, but before leaving he got a tour of the capital, Budapest.
“That was awesome. The cities and the culture over there are completely different from what we’re used to over here. When we went to cities like Bratislava (Slovakia) in our league, it was kind of cool to look out of the bus and see the buildings, the architecture.”
Although DVTK struggled, Anderson said there was a lot of parity in the league and most of the games were close. Sometimes they would lose big to lower-ranked teams and then keep it close with top clubs, he said.
He hasn’t made any concrete plans for next season, but expects to head back to Europe. Along with enjoying what he said amounts to a paid vacation, the European style of play makes it easier to be durable and fits well with his speed and skill game.
“It’s not as hard on the body. It’s not that guys don’t play gritty over there, but you can’t run around hitting guys because with the Olympic ice, you get so out of position,” he said. “If you make a bad play at the blue-line, they’re always ready to counterattack. If you leave your defenceman hanging they’re not going to be very happy with you when you get back to the bench.”
This year, he signed in December and joined the team halfway through the season, but he hopes to play the full year in 2021-22, starting in August.