Being fortunate enough to work a job I love, I have come to learn there is more to life than just this game: nothing was more evident of this than the Cherepanov tragedy I wrote about in my last blog.
That being said, I have also come to realize there is more to this game than just showing up to the rink and playing. Ultimately, this is a life-altering experience and the decision to come to this part of the world was not an easy one.
For professional players, the decision to leave the NHL system and come to Europe is not an easy one to make. While the pay is very good, individuals have to look at other factors separately. In this entry, I will try to illuminate why a pro player might choose to come to Europe.
First, I asked myself: "Is the place/city I am moving to going to be a safe and enjoyable experience? Does the team value and promote my ‘North American-ness’?” Being a foreign player sometimes means you have a target painted on your back in each game and the expectations placed on you are very high.
Secondly, what does this change do for my career? The decision to come to Minsk was not a difficult one for me. I did some research on the city and knew some hockey people who had been here; the reviews were all positive.
The level of play in the Kontinental League was supposedly second only to the NHL, so the challenge intrigued me - a challenge is what drives every athlete. Also, I knew, at the time, Dynamo Minsk had solicited a great North American coach and several North American players - Bryan Muir, Jeff Giuliano, Doug Nolan and Andy Chiodo among several others.
They reiterated their desire to compete at the highest level and after several in-depth conversations with Jim Hughes (our head coach), I was further along in my decision making process.
The ability to earn a living as a hockey player can be brutally short, as we have seen. I only have a small window to take care of my family and myself. I was concerned about the stigma attached to leaving the NHL system. However, I also realized the KHL is a great league with great players and excellent teams. The chance to contribute on a new stage - an international one - was very appealing to me.
Finally, the person this decision was likely hardest on was my girlfriend Sarah. To ask her to move to Belarus was a hard thing to do. I wish there was a way I could make her life in Belarus easier, but there is only so much I can do with such a large language barrier here and a busy hockey schedule, to boot.
I'm lucky she’s been so supportive and doesn't complain about how drastically her life has had to change. Without family support, life in a foreign country would be difficult and incredibly lonely.
I now know the decision to come here was a good one: I had some tentative moments the first couple of weeks, but in the end, I'm glad I trusted my instincts; it’s turned out to be a great experience.
I am happy to be here in a great city with great fans. This is a hard working society with a premium placed on small luxuries, like going to a hockey game. I am reminded every day of how lucky I am to be working a job I truly love.
Ben Clymer will blog for THN.com on his experiences in the Kontinental League playing for Dynamo Minsk throughout the season. Read his other entries HERE.
Clymer was originally drafted in the second round, 27th overall, by the Boston Bruins in 1997. He played 438 games in the NHL over seven seasons with Tampa Bay and Washington, scoring 52 goals and 129 points. After playing for the American League’s Hershey Bears in 2007-08, Clymer joined Dynamo Minsk of the KHL.