BROOKFIELD, N.S. – Zach Sill’s latest career move is taking him to Germany.
After a season with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic, Sill will skate this season with the Cologne Sharks of the Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) – the top professional league in Germany.
“I’m excited,” said Sill, 31, from Brookfield. “More North American-style league than the Czech league. The Czech league, it was great hockey, really skilled hockey players and great all-around hockey players, but the DEL, I think, is more suited for my style, so I’m excited about that.”
Sill has played professional hockey for 10 years. He had stints in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Toronto and Washington, but has spent most of his time in the American Hockey League as a hard-nosed fourth-line checking forward.
Sill leaves for Germany July 29. He expects there will be a transition period with his new team, however, not much will change with his game, he said.
“My style doesn’t change, how hard I play doesn’t change, it’s just moving to a different league, seeing some country while I’m at it, which is pretty cool.”
The DEL consists of 14 teams, that play a 52-game regular season schedule. The Sharks had a 29-18-0-4-1 record last season and lost in a semifinal playoff series to eventual league champion Adler Mannheim. The team averaged about 11,500 fans per home game.
Sill, a six-foot, 200-pound centre, will play with a couple of familiar faces in Germany. Jon Matsumoto, who he played against in the AHL, will also join the Sharks, as will defenceman Kevin Gagne of Edmundston, N.B., who Sill played summer hockey with in the past.
“I think we’re on the same flight over,” said Sill.
Sill said going to the rink each day never gets old and he loves the game as much now as he did when he was a kid growing up in Birch Hill. He’s always been known as a great teammate, who is high on camaraderie and forming a tight bond in the dressing room.
“When hockey’s done, that’s what I’m gonna miss the most, I think; every year making another group of friends and just being on the go to the rink and hanging out,” he said. “Every year you make 25 new best friends for a season.”
While Sill will play for his second European team in as many years, he enjoyed stability while in North America, as a member of the Penguins and Capitals organizations for six and three years, respectively, and would like to attain that level of security again.
“I’d like to settle in somewhere. I’ve kind of done that my whole career, so I’d like to land in a spot and settle in and build a core group of guys around us and work to win a championship.”
As far as adjustments go, last year was a big one for Zach Sill.
Aside from playing a different style of game on the big ice and learning news systems with a new team, his life away from the rink changed, as well. He and wife Leeann had their first child in Prague – a girl named Harper – midway through the season in December.
“It was quite the adventure having our child over there, abroad,” he said. “It was me and her; it was pretty cool, we had to figure it all out, from pediatricians to where she was going to give birth and stuff like that, so it was quite an experience.”
Leeann’s parents visited for about three weeks, he said, and were a great help with their newborn.
“Then it was back to me and her again, and it was fun,” he added. “It’s nice being home; there’s a little bit more of a support system at home, but (Leeann) was a friggin’ rock star over there; I can’t say enough about that.”