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10-31-2006, 06:03 AM
Hockey's Future Staff
Join Date: Jul 2002
The DEL is comparable to the AHL, but not to be forgotten is that the teams in the DEL are allowed to play 11 foreigners. In addition, most of those foreigners are ending their careers while the AHL is an educational building league for NHL prospects. That's a distinct difference. I personally think the top DEL clubs have no problems playing against top clubs in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia, much less Slovakia, although each of these leagues have much stricter limits to how many foreigners can play there, so in the end, their leagues are actually a tick stronger from the standpoint of homegrown players.
From a playing level, I've seen much of both the DEL & AHL and they are highly comparable, with the DEL actually being better on good nights. The style is however slightly different and there are often HUGE talent gaps between the first and fourth line at the DEL level.
The 2nd Bundesliga is comparable to the ECHL. I've seen many of both and can say that both can be very exciting or simply awful on any given night. Several 2nd league teams are very good and when the play against DEL teams you hardly notice a difference (like Kassel this season). Lots of Germans are using the 2nd league as a place to gather experience and then jump into the DEL. It's a concept that has started bearing fruits in the past few seasons. The 3rd league - Oberliga - is actually quite entertaining. Many teams are quite bad, but not to be forgotten is that most of these teams play in towns that have little else and enjoy a cult following. Many of the players are homegrown and the fans love to identify with their home town boys. These teams aren't permitted more than 5 foreigners and those players are usually the absolute top players. Every fan in this league knows that their team has to get good foreigners to compete. C'est la vie la.
True, many top ECHLers who don't want secondary roles in the AHL and know they have no shot at the NHL wisely choose to come to Germany and play in the 2nd and 3rd leagues. They have the opportunity to make as much if not more money - often in addition to a sponsored car and apartment - to play less games on a more regular schedule with plenty of time to travel around and see Europe in the process. It can be an absolute adventure and most ECHLers with any interest in travelling and culture should DEFINITELY look to spend a season or two playing in one of these two leagues. Plenty have also come here and met their future wives. In addition, several lifetime ECHLers (i.e., Victor Gervais, Francois Fortier) have come here and eventually made it to the DEL, even playing key offensive roles for their teams. In other words, there is a chance to move up and the playing style here is surely more suitable for a lot of savvy North Americans who don't find their nitch in NAmerica.
However, the teams aren't stupid and they don't just take ANY ol' ECHLers. Some UHLers or PCHLers have come over too, but when they do, they're often absolute topscorers in their leagues or former NHL draft picks. Teams with fewer financial options often take chances on Canadian and US college kids. Also, there is a lot of competition among foreigners here, meaning the teams with fewer financial options usually pick up players from Eastern Europe and don't even consider the North American fellas.
If you're looking for paid ice hockey work over here and you don't have an agent or considerable junior/college + say, ECHL experience, teams here will most likely not offer you more than a short unpaid tryout. Should you accept such a situation, remember to show lots of patience, understanding and very little attitude. That can go far in getting yourself a contract at one of the lower levels, even if you're not as good as other players they might be considering. Teams have often had problems with foreigners outside of the rink and that's something they all want to avoid vehemently.
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