Brandon’s Shayne Wiebe celebrates a goal with his Swiss teammates this season. (SUBMITTED )
Shayne Wiebe felt like a marked man on the ice in his first season of European hockey as the leading scorer for EHC Olten.
Actually, scratch that. The 24-year-old Brandonite literally was a marked man thanks to the Swiss hockey custom of outfitting each team’s top scorer with a yellow helmet and a jersey with yellow shoulder patches.
"You’re definitely a target when you have the yellow," said Wiebe, who had 21 goals and 28 assists in 41 games with Olten. "(Opponents) don’t even have to look twice."
A former Brandon Wheat Kings captain, Wiebe was acquired by his hometown Western Hockey League team from the Kamloops Blazers during the 2009-10 season when Brandon was preparing to host the Memorial Cup. The 5-foot-10, 189-pound forward remained with the Wheat Kings for the 2010-11 campaign, leading the team with 44 goals, before going professional the next season with the Winnipeg Jets’ top farm club, the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.
Wiebe finished that year in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport ranks, helping the University of New Brunswick win a conference title before going pro again in 2012-13, playing in the AHL and the ECHL.
Last summer Wiebe signed with Olten in National League B, Switzerland’s second-highest level of hockey, and made a smooth transition despite having to work his way around some language and cultural barriers.
"It wasn’t too much different really, being over there for hockey," he said. "It’s kind of a different style of play, more puck possession, but other than that it’s really not a whole lot different."
Wiebe was a tough opponent to play against in Switzerland, tying for eighth in the league in scoring and placing ninth in NLB with 73 penalty minutes. He kept some good company, too, finishing only three points behind Alexei Kovalev, who racked up more than 1,000 points during his National Hockey League career.
"It was kinda cool to be playing against a guy like that, that has that reputation," Wiebe said.
The only real disappointment was the end to Olten’s season. The club led NLB with a 31-11-3 record, but was upset in the first round of the playoffs as Wiebe was limited to five games and three points in the best-of-six series.
It’s a record that Wiebe and his teammates will have a chance to top in the upcoming season as he has signed a contract extension and will head back to Olten later this summer.
"It is a really great city," he said. "The team treats the players really well and it was a fun year of hockey, so it was kind of a no-brainer to go back."
ONE-TIMERS: Wiebe’s teammates included a former WHL opponent in ex-Tri-City Americans LW Justin Feser, who had 20 goals and 40 points in 44 games.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 17, 2014