Mitch Stephens of Forrest has played the past three seasons in
Germany for the Rosenheim Star Bulls.
Having grown up basically in the middle of North America, Mitch Stephens has been able to spread his wings through hockey.
The sport has taken the 29-year-old Forrest native across North America and all the way to Germany, where Stephens recently finished his third season with the Rosenheim Star Bulls.
"It’s definitely not what I expected growing up, but I always wanted to keep playing," he said. "I’ve been to B.C., in the west, spent four years in college in New York in the east and my first year and a half pro I was down in New Mexico and Texas right in the south in the Central League. And then over to Germany, so I’ve pretty much touched most of the places you can play I guess across the world."
After finishing up his Midget AAA days with the Yellowhead Chiefs, Stephens played two seasons of Junior A in the British Columbia Hockey League and another in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
After four years of university at SUNY-Geneseo, Stephens embarked on a professional hockey career, spending two years in the Central league with the New Mexico Scorpions, Laredo Bucks and Rapid City Rush.
His old coach from Geneseo lined up a spot at Rosenheim for him and Stephens said the experience he’s gained from his travels is something he cherishes.
"That’s my favourite part since I finished high school and started travelling with hockey, it’s just the different people you’ve met and the different places that you get to see and the experiences of being really in completely different cultures playing hockey," he said. "You go from the south where it’s warmer and people don’t know hockey very well to Germany where they think they know hockey, but it’s kind of a different game from what we’re used to playing. You just get so many different aspects of the way hockey is viewed around the world and even North America."
In his first season in Rosenheim, Stephens helped the Star Bulls win the Oberliga, which is the third level of professional hockey in Germany, earning promotion to the 2nd Bundesliga. The Star Bulls were semifinalists in the 2nd Bundesliga two seasons ago before making it all the way to the final this season, where they lost in six games to the Landshut Cannibals.
Stephens said in his first few weeks in Germany, he wouldn’t have known he would spend three years there.
"It’s definitely different being over there; different language and the culture certainly has aspects to it that are different than here, so I guess it’s something you get used to," said Stephens, who isn’t fluent in German but understands it well enough now to get by. "It was definitely a bit of a shock my first few weeks there the first year. I was not so sure it was something I was going to enjoy, but you get used to it and stick it out for a little while and it got better and I came to really enjoy it."
Stephens has been a productive player for the Star Bulls, scoring 12 goals this season and finishing second on the team with 46 points in 48 games. However, he’s getting married next month in New York and said that if he plays hockey next season, he expects it will be in the United States.
Stephens is getting prepared to move to New York and make his full-time home there, which will likely mean another lifestyle change: No more summers playing in the Manitoba Senior Baseball League with the Brandon Marlins.
"I might have played my last game," he said. I don’t know, we’ll have to see how things work out later in the summer. I’ve got to come back at some point to get a few more things, so I might make one more appearance."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 5, 2012