© Photo special to The Guardian by www.zsoltlengyel.com
Jordan Knox, left, of Skinner’s Pond and Matt Boyle of Charlottetown are playing their first season with the Miskolci Polar Bears in Hungary.
Knox, Boyle are members of the Miskolci Polar Bears in Hugary
Two Prince Edward Island hockey players get the chance Saturday to play in an outdoor professional hockey game.
Skinner’s Pond native Jordan Knox and Charlottetown’s Matt Boyle are playing their first season with the Miskolci Polar Bears in Hungary. Saturday, the team is playing on one of Budapest’s outdoor arenas, which seats about 6,000 people.
“It will be a neat experience,” Knox wrote in a recent email to The Guardian. “Not very many hockey players have the chance to play in a game like this and with the setup it will be a fun time.”
For the two Islanders it is like stepping back in time to their early hockey days, playing on outdoor rinks.
“It does bring me back to my youth of spending hours at Gordie Griffin’s rink in Hillsborough, difference being I don’t have to look out for homes on the side this time,” Boyle said.
The two UPEI Panthers graduates are enjoying their time playing professional, but acknowledge it has been a learning experience on and off the ice.
“The biggest adjustment playing in Europe, no matter what the level, would be the size of the ice,” Knox wrote. “The style of play is different as well, as teams play a more puck-possession game rather than dump and chase.”
Boyle, a steady shutdown blue-liner, said the larger ice surface makes it evener more important for him to be aware of his gap control.
“Another adjustment is having more free time than I have been used to,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for university athletes and how they are able to balance both academics and sport.”
It does bring me back to my youth of spending hours at Gordie Griffin’s rink in Hillsborough, difference being I don’t have to look out for homes on the side this time. Charlottetown's Matt Boyle
The language barrier is also a challenge the men deal with.
“It becomes an adventure most times trying to order the simplest thing at a restaurant,” Knox wrote.
It also impacts the
communication between linemates, teammates and the coaching staff.
The regular routine sees the players practice in the morning and then hit the gym before having the afternoons to relax.
“Some days we decide to make a trip into Budapest or make the hour drive to Kosice in Solvakia to spend the afternoon,” Boyle said.
The Polar Bears are in fifth place in a tight league where only four teams make the playoffs. They have had three different coaches and have gone through its share of winning and losing streaks.
“We have had a bit of a rollercoaster first half,” Knox admitted.
“It will be a battle until the end of the regular season for the four playoff spots, but we plan to have one of them and make a run at the championship.”
Knox had 16 goals and 13 assists in 21 games while Boyle has four goals and eight assists in 28 games. They are two of the team’s five import players and are both used on the power play and penalty kill.
Knox and Boyle have a break from action and are coming home for the holidays. They arrive in Halifax on Dec. 16 and return to Miskolc on Boxing Day.