Goulds defenceman poised to play D1 hockey next season
After an impressive rookie campaign in the Austria national league’s second division, St. John’s native Rodi Short will join the Graz 99ers in the league’s first division next season. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
So what’s Rodi Short supposed to do for an encore?
The former Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts defenceman from the Goulds scored the winning goal in overtime that gave VEU Feldkirch the Austrian second division hockey championship this season.
“It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it now,” said Short, who blasted the puck just inside the blue line that gave his team the title. He also scored his team’s first goal of the game in the 3-2 final.
Not too shabby for his first time playing in Europe.
Short’s parents, Wade and June, visited him at Christmas and were back for the finals to see their son’s heroics.
If there is an encore, it will be in a tougher division next season.
Short, who turns 24 next month, has already signed to play for first-division Graz next season. Not bad for a hockey player less than two years out of provincial senior hockey hockey.
He went looking for a job in Austria last year at the coaxing of Cataracts coach Brian Casey, who played professionally in Europe for about 10 years with stops in Slovakia, Austria and Denmark.
“Brian has a lot of connections and he asked if he got me an offer, would I go. I told him for sure,” Short explained.
“Brian gave me a good idea what to expect, although it’s had been years since he played over there.”
Short said Austria was a big change, but he loved it.
A rookie at the European professional game, Short said the toughest part was the language barrier, “although most people over there speak a little English,” he noted.
The other adjustment was the pace of the game and the bigger ice dimensions.
“It’s a fast-skating league and there’s not as much hitting as there is here. I like to rush the puck a lot, but I had to be smart about it … pick my times and chances.”
He said it took him three to five games to get used to the larger ice surface, but team management saw his potential pretty quickly.
It’s common for imports to initially sign a three-month contract, which is basically a tryout, explained Short, one of three Canadians on the team.
“But after three or four days the coach told me I’d be there for the full year.”
Short paid the confidence back with interest, posting the top offensive numbers for defencemen in the league with 14 goals and 45 points in 44 games.
The six-foot-one, 198-pound rearguard played with Truro Bearcats of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League before spending time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with St. John’s Fog Devils and Halifax Mooseheads.
His goal was to make it to division one in Europe, and now he’s working out daily in preparation for the bigger challenge next season.
As part of his contract, Short got an apartment and the use of a car free of charge.
“Living in Europe for free isn’t too bad,” he said with a chuckle.
“Austria is beautiful and I could live there all year … well, maybe come home a month for a visit,” he added.