Bible Hill's David Brine taking a shine to life in Croatia
Bible Hill native David Brine has been enjoying his first season in the Austrian Erste Bank Hockey League with the Zagreb Medvescak Bears. The 27-year-old said he would like to continue his career in the European city. File photo
TRURO - David Brine couldn't drive a standard.
But with the backdrop of Eastern Europe all around, it didn't take the 27-year-old Bible Hill native long to learn.
"Now I rip around in it no problem," he said.
It was the first in a series of adjustments Brine had to make after arriving in Zagreb, Croatia, back in the summer to play for the Zagreb Medvescak Bears of the Austrian Erste Bank Hockey League and he's fallen in love with the country.
"I would be very happy to continue my career here," he said.
Medvescak is the only Croatian team in the 11-team circuit, which features six Austrian clubs, two from Slovenia, one from the Czech Republic and one from Hungary.
The team started its playoff run last weekend against the Czech Republic-based HC Orli Znojmo after finishing second in its division in the regular season at 31-29. Medvescak leads the best-of-seven quarter-final 2-0 thanks to a 5-2 win Tuesday in Znojmo, Czech Republic. Brine recorded an assist.
After skating for the past five seasons in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans and San Antonio Rampage, and not getting a sniff of the NHL since playing nine games with the Florida Panthers in 2007-08, Brine started to consider options in Europe.
He spoke with fellow Nova Scotian and former training partner Donnie MacLean, who played for Medvescak last season and is now the team's assistant coach. He felt Zagreb was the best fit, inked a one-year deal and landed in the Croatian capital in late July.
"My first impressions were it was a nice city and things were much different from home," the six-foot-one, 201-pound centre said.
No kidding. Zagreb, nestled along the Sava River at the foot of Medvednica Mountain, has a population of more than one million.
But like Canada, Brine - who netted four goals and 20 assists in 52 regular season games - said the city and its residents were inviting and most are able to speak English, allowing him to communicate much easier.
"It didn't take long to adjust," he said. "We have a lot of North American players on the team so that made the adjustment easier."
And like Canada, Croatians are crazy about hockey and pack their home rink, called Dom Sportova, 6,400 strong.
"The fans here are amazing," he said. "We play in front of sold-out crowds nightly and they are loud. It's hard to hear the person beside you at times over the continuous chanting and drums they have all game long.
"It's been awhile since I've played in front of crowds this large."
Brine lives near the centre of the city and said his days there aren't much different than living in North America, especially when it comes to preparing for games. Brine typically attends morning practice before working out, breaking for lunch and spending the afternoon working towards a commerce degree. Then, if it's an off night, he'll meet up with teammates for a coffee, movie or some other social activity.
Brine said he feels the experience has been a good one for him, both hockeywise and personally. His location has allowed him to not only tour to the cities the team competes in, but also take trips to Venice, Vienna, Prague and Ljubljana.
"It has really opened my eyes."