No one needs to remind Tyler Plante about the unpredictability of life in pro hockey.
The 25-year-old Brandonite saw it all last season, playing for four teams in four leagues — five if you count his pre-season with the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers — on two continents.
Up until 2011-12, the former Brandon Wheat Kings standout enjoyed a relatively stable career as a Panthers prospect, spending most of it with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans, minus the odd stint in the ECHL and a couple of cups of coffee with the NHL club.
Things got topsy turvy in a hurry last fall when he was sent from Florida’s new AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL as the Panthers began to stockpile goaltending prospects ahead of Plante — their second-round pick from the 2005 NHL draft. Plante didn’t stay in Cincinnati long, playing only four games before jumping to Mora IK of Sweden’s second-highest league.
“It just didn’t feel like I was fitting into the organization anymore and they had other plans,” Plante said. “I wasn’t mad at them or anything, but I just wanted to do what was best for me and decided it was time to move on.
“Honestly, at the time going overseas midseason, it’s tough to find a job, especially in Sweden. They only have two imports per team and it just so happened a job was open there. I talked to my old (Wheat Kings) teammate, Dustin Kohn, who was playing in the same league, the Allsvenskan, and he said it was a good league so I jumped at the first opportunity that was presented to me.”
Plante said he didn’t have much trouble adjusting to life in Sweden. He got used to travelling early when his father, Cam, played professionally in Europe and he even had a few words of Swedish in his back pocket thanks to younger brother Alex’s Swedish girlfriend.
On the other hand, the game itself was a world apart, while being slightly familiar all at the same time.
“It was pretty different,” Plante said. “You don’t really realize how big that big ice is till you step onto it. The angles are a little different and those Swedish guys sure had nice skill sets on them, that’s for sure.”
“I would compare it to WSHL (Westman Summer Hockey League) hockey as far as the way it’s played,” he added with laugh. “I’m definitely going to get some good training this summer in the ‘Dub S’ if I’m going to go back overseas. … A lot of cross-crease action.”
Plante played only six games with Mora, posting a 3.00 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage before being invited to move up to the Elitserien, Sweden’s top league, with Djurgårdens IF. It was a bittersweet move as Plante was used only as a backup by the Stockholm-based club, dressing for 11 games but failing to see any ice time.
“Looking back now, it probably would have been better if I would have stayed in Mora and kept playing, but at the time jumping up to the top league (seemed like a good idea),” he said. “I still don’t think I would turn that down. … It was a tough situation, but I’m happy for the experience.”
Now an unrestricted free agent, Plante has no idea what’s in store next. He’d love another shot with an NHL team but knows he may have to prove on the ice first that he’s worthy of a look.
“Obviously, coming off a bad season — for my standards a bad season — you don’t have tons of people knocking on your door right away,” he said. “So you’ve got to wait it out and see what the best opportunity to have a good bounce-back season will be.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 16, 2012