It’s always good to have a back up plan and for Justin Feser, his plan to play professional hockey changed locations, going from the Arizona desert to the Swiss Alps instead.
The 21-year-old Red Deer product spent five years with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL and is hoping to catch on with the Phoenix Coyotes but instead he has signed a one-year deal with EHC Olten of the Swiss NLB League.
“I went to the Phoenix development camp in July and things just didn’t work out the way I wanted them to,” he said.
He admits he doesn’t know a lot about the league he will be playing in but says he’s excited about the experience and the opportunity.
His former assistant coach with Tri-City, Scott Beattie is now the head coach of the Olten team which lost on the league finals last season and he gave him a call encouraging him to come to play overseas.
Feser appears to be very comfortable with whatever road he heads down in his hockey career, being satisfied with staying in Switzerland for an undetermined length of time or coming back to North America if an offer with an NHL team should come his way.
Being a smaller forward, 5’9″, 190 pounds, the large ice surface of this league might suit his game and provide him with more space to create plays, he said.
“I’m going to just try to play my game the way I always have, playing offensive or defensive,” he said. “You know, make use of whatever I have in front of me.”
His skating and vision are two assets he will bring with him overseas along with some goal scoring touch. Feser potted 44 goals with the Americans in his final season there and added 62 assists to close out his career with a 106 point season. Over the five years he scored 155 goals as an American.
While he does know the head coach from his WHL days, Feser says a couple of other WHL grads whom he played against are also on the team and he hopes to tap into their experience in order to settle into the new league.
“I played against Shane Weibe a few times, he played in Kamloops and Brandon and he’s a couple of years older than I am so he knows a little bit more about the pro hockey life.”
One thing he won’t miss playing in Switzerland is the long road trips young players had to endure as part of the WHL life.
There are 10 teams in the league within a small country so the time on the road is reduced during the 50-game schedule, down from the 72 game grind in the WHL.
“Yeah, a little more rest time and more time to keep the strength up and there’s no long bus rides,” he said.
The biggest adjustment he expects to have to make won’t be on the ice he feels.
Instead it will likely be learning how to live on his own for the first time after so many years of living at home or with billets in Tri -City.
“Just trying to cook my own food and do all that kind of stuff myself,” he said.