A Long Way From Home: Maritime Pros in Europe
There’s no place like the Maritimes. There’s no place like home, especially during the holiday season.
By all accounts there’s currently over thirty men and women from this region playing the game they love professionally in Europe and a abroad. It’s truly an astonishing number given this regions demographics.
The old hockey adage rings true now more than ever.
“Every team needs a Maritimer on it.”
Maritime import players are the backbone of any team they suit up for. They are the heart and soul of any group, the glue that binds everything together. Maritimers are the ultimate leaders and teammates. The impact they have on and off the ice is truly remarkable. For some within the hockey world playing professionally abroad sounds like a dream come true and it would be, but it’s still a grind especially when these players haven’t seen their families in what seems like forever.
Home is where the heart is, but one could only imagine how incredibly difficult it is for all those players and their families especially during this time of year.
The pace of life here in the Maritimes is said to mirror that of Europe. No one understands that better than longtime pro and proud Prince Edward Islander Morgan Ellis.
“The lifestyle in Europe has been great to us so far. I’ve been lucky to play in a lot of great places and see alot of great cities, travel to a lot of different countries and experience a lot of different cultures that I wouldn’t of had the opportunity if it wasn’t for hockey,” said Ellis.
Obviously, the bright lights of the NHL take centre stage here, but the style and brand of hockey being played overseas is highly underrated and understated.
“I think that European hockey doesn’t get the respect it deserves personally, there’s so many great players over here in a lot of different leagues,” explained Ellis.
“Every league has its own style of game as well, the German league would be the most similar to North America as far as style of game and physicality. They for sure have the best fans that I’ve experienced,” said the skilled two way defender. “Just imagine soccer fans in a hockey stadium and that’s what you have in Germany,” Ellis said with a smile.
“I’ve been very lucky to do what I love for as long as I have but the main thing for me right now is what’s best for the family and the setup they provide us in Berlin is amazing! We’re very lucky to play and live here,” Ellis said.
The game of hockey has a unique way connecting us all like no other.
There’s a common thread here in the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada that is intricately interwoven not only in the people, but in the players that call this region home.
The dream to play professional hockey starts as soon as kids from this region lace them up. Bitterly frozen feet and faces never derail those dreams, they only strength our passion and love for the game. Every young Maritimer dreams big when it comes to the game of hockey. Very few get to live out that dream. That’s what makes it so special.
Those that aren’t lucky enough to experience it first hand see what they perceive to be a glamorous lifestyle. In some cases that’s true, but the grind and constant struggle is real.
“Of course professional sports has its struggles just like anything in life, but I realize how lucky I am and I know a lot of people would switch seats with me in a heartbeat but you just have to try to enjoy it as much as you can because it won’t last forever,” said a reflective Ellis.
Family is everything, it’s always number one. Being away from them has to be the most difficult part of the journey. Every elite level player or pro from the Maritimes have all had to move away from home at one point or another to chase their dreams.
“I’ve been living away from home since I’ve been 16 so you obviously miss out on a lot as far as family/friends life but that’s just part of the business and you have to be willing to make those sacrifices if you want to succeed in the sport.”
“Obviously none of this would be or have been possible without the support of those same friends and family and of course my amazing wife sacrificing so much of her time and effort for me because a lot of people only see the highlight reel when it comes to this type of lifestyle,” said Ellis.
“Just like anything it has its struggles, but you just have to know why you do it and enjoy the ride because soon you’ll have to hop off and move on to the next chapter of life.”
This time of year, just like the game of hockey is special for so many people in so many different ways.
It has a special way of putting the things that most in our lives in perspective. The Maritimes is so rich in it’s culture, lifestyle, history and tradition especially when it comes to the game of hockey. There’s so many players that are a long way from home that don’t always get the recognition or press they deserve for impacting the game and inspiring so many other young Maritimers to believe that anything is possible and that your postal code shouldn’t matter when it comes to hockey dreams.
They might be a long way from home, but their impact on the game in this region is immeasurable.
To all the players and their families playing the game they love in Europe and abroad, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Thanks for everything you do for the game of hockey!