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Dunedin ice hockey player Rick Parry is having an eye-opening experience in the professional ranks in France. He emailed the Otago Daily Times these thoughts.
I landed on a Monday, and although the coach had let me have the night off to get over the jet-lag, I decided to skate to move my legs and understand the way of the game here.
Our coach is from Quebec and speaks both French and English at practices.
He is a seasoned pro, playing more than eight years in the highest league in France and in Canada and Germany.
We practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights on the ice.
We also have a skate on Friday mornings for all the imports and French players who do not work or study. My backup goalie and I have a specific goalie practice every Thursday before our team practice, and we work out at the gym two or three days a week as well.
The imports include two Slovakians, a Czech, a Slovenian, a Russian, an American and a Kiwi. The rule on imports here in division two is you are allowed up to three players from outside Europe, and you can have as many European players as you like as long as the team retains 10 French-born players.
We had four pre-season games, with two wins and two losses.
Since the regular season started we have played six games, three at home and three away, winning all six to rank No 1 in the league.
We will play 10 more games before the playoffs start.
I have played every game and have adapted my game a lot to compete with the skill and speed of players here.
I feel New Zealand league teams could compete with some of the clubs here in terms of skill level. However, the individual skills of players from all over Europe make for an interesting mix of talent that is very competitive.
One of my highlights so far was a road game when we were down 6-2 with the final period remaining. We were able to claw back, taking the game to a draw with 30sec to go. We then won the game in overtime.
Another was playing against former Dunedin Thunder import Quentin Pepy two weeks ago.
This game was to decide first place in our division as we both had not lost a game to this point.
It was a very close game and I made 39 saves, letting in only one goal, to win the game 3-1.
Away from the rink, I have had the chance to experience Paris, exploring the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles.
So far, this has been an amazing experience. I am fortunate to be part of a great team. My French is slowly improving and I am enjoying my time here.