NEW GLASGOW – Playing in Switzerland for eight weeks last winter was much different than playing in the NHL.
Jon Sim laced up his skates for HC Fribourg-Gottéron of the Swiss National League A earlier this year, spending eight weeks in the country before his team was knocked out in the first round by HC Davos, which swept the team 4-0 and later went on to win the league title.
"It was quite the atmosphere, the Swiss fans don't stop singing and banging the drums," said Sim. "It was a great experience, but the hardest part was being away from my wife and kids."
Sim's wife and three children remained in New York while he was in Europe.
Not only were the fans different, he said, but the training was also quite unique. The teams focused on much more ice time during practices than their NHL counterparts, but the off-ice commitment was also strong. The change is due to the shorter season for European teams - they play only 50 games to the 82 played in the NHL, meaning the North American players need to rest their bodies more.
HC Fribourg-Gottéron was in the middle of the French section of Switzerland, so while the language was occasionally an impediment to Sim, he managed to find a few restaurants where he could get a steak. He also took advantage of his time in Switzerland to see some of the country, often jumping in the car during his days off to drive around.
"The countryside is just beautiful," he said.
Sim is still up in the air about his plans for this fall and is unsure whether he'll head back to the NHL or give European hockey another try.
"Obviously, my dream is the NHL, and when you're over there, your dream's not over, but it felt far away," he said.
But he is certain that hockey is still in his future.
"Growing up, I had a dream, and I was fortunate enough to live that dream and play the game as a job. It's been 15 years, I've had a lot of fun, and I'm not ready to stop," he said. "We're talking to a few teams; it's just the process now. Hopefully it won't be too much longer, maybe another couple of weeks. It's harder with my family, because we have to move all the time, but I still have a passion to play, I still want to play."