Hermantown native Chad Huttel takes on hockey in EnglandAfter spending his collegiate years at the University of Minnesota Duluth as a member of the Bulldogs and his high school career at Hermantown with the Hawks, Hermantown native Chad Huttel is now living in England, playing his first season with the Sheffield Steelers.
After spending his collegiate years at the University of Minnesota Duluth as a member of the Bulldogs and his high school career at Hermantown with the Hawks, Hermantown native Chad Huttel is now living in England, playing his first season with the Sheffield Steelers.
At the end of last year, Huttel found out from his agent that there were a number of teams in the Elite Ice Hockey League that were interested in him.
“After hearing from a couple North American scouts who report to the EIHL and other places in Europe, I had a couple of options in leagues in Germany and Sweden, but this looked like the best option for me,” Huttel said of his journey to Sheffield.
Growing up, Huttel never thought of playing hockey in England, but once he reached his teenage years he did begin to dream of playing hockey in Europe at some point in his life. He considers himself very lucky to have reached his goal, especially on a team of the caliber of the Steelers.
"It's the top league in the United Kingdom," he said. "It's just below the quality of hockey you find in the top leagues in Sweden, Finland, Germany and the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League)."
Huttel said he has had to adjust to playing more minutes per game and also more games in a season. His team just reached its midway point and has already played close to 40 games; whereas last year, the Bulldogs National Champions played barely 40 games throughout their entire season.
Huttel is one of the youngest players on the team. “I’m challenging myself to try and play like the rest of the veterans here,” he said.
This is the first time that Huttel has played away from home and his family and friends. “It’s different not being in Duluth and not having my family around, that's for sure, but I’m having a blast,” Huttel said. This season though, Huttel’s grandparents, Larry and Barb Huttel, were able to visit early in the season and see him play. Also, his parents Terri and Dave, and brother Grant flew overseas during Christmas to watch him play.
“Several games have been televised and they could catch feeds on the Internet,” he said of how his family and friends keep tabs on his play. “I think they have enjoyed that.”
Huttel and his teammates are currently in position to contend for the league championship.
As far as next season is concerned, Huttel is just taking this season one game at a time, and will see what upcoming seasons will have for store for him when the time is right.
“I will make a decision about next year towards the end of this season, but right now it looks like I have some nice options in the UK and other leagues in Europe,” Huttel said.
While spending time overseas, Huttel has had the chance to play with and witness an immense amount of talent, which he was not familiar with.
“Most people from Minnesota would be surprised with the level of skill in the UK and many parts of Europe,” Huttel said. “I know I was impressed. We get in a bubble a bit in Minnesota and forget how many places are developing very solid players. I was lucky enough to see this when we played against other European teams in the European Championships in November.”
He hopes that with his experiences, he can serve as a reminder to others to continue working to improve add themselves. “There are some great players coming from countries that we never think of such as Denmark, Italy and even Hungary,” Huttel said. “I hope this shows other kids in the Northland to never be satisfied with where they are as players and to keep working hard because there is loads of good hockey to be played around the world.”
Duluthian Sarah Packingham writes a weekly sports column for the Budgeteer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.