Sweetland listens to his head over his heart

John
John Browne
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After suffering a concussion in the AHL late last season, Bonavista native Andrew Sweetland putting pro career on hold to play senior hockey

Bonavista’s Andrew Sweetland played 14 games for the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators. With the lingering effects of a late season concussion still weighing on his mind, Sweetland will stay close to home this winter and play senior hockey with the Clarenville Caribous. — Telegram file photo

Andrew Sweetland won’t say he’s at a crossroads in his hockey career, or in his life for that matter, but he did acknowledge he isn’t looking too far into the future.

As far as this season is concerned, Sweetland has opted to play for the Clarenville Caribous of the provincial senior hockey league, while taking a course at Memorial University.

The 25-year-old Bonavista native’s hockey course changed suddenly after he suffered a concussion playing for the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators with three weeks left in the 2010-11 season.

He made his decision to return to Newfoundland during the period of time he was dealing with post-concussion syndrome.

“I thought at that time that the best thing for me to do was stay home and go to school,” he said. “If I was feeling better maybe I’d play some hockey this winter. I can’t go any further into the future right now.”

Health-wise, he said, he’s feeling much better now, especially the last three or four months.

Still, the decision to walk away from the pro game and return home to Newfoundland is a puzzling one. The 6-2, 204-pound forward netted 21 goals in only 38 games with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL last season, before averaging a point every other game (four goals, seven points) in 14 games with Binghamton.

“Basically,” he says, “after the concussion, I felt it was the best decision for me at this time to stay home and not to play away.

“I’m taking a small chance playing this season, but the level of hockey is obviously different. I feel a little safer playing here.”

So, has he given up returning to the pro ranks?

“I haven’t ruled that out by any means,” he answered. “But, to be honest, I haven’t been thinking about that. I made my decision which I’m sticking with for now.”

Sweetland’s pro career so far has taken him all over North America in a variety of hockey-playing situations on a variety of levels.

A product of the Tri-Pen Frost AAA midget team, Sweetland began his junior career with Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League’s Couchiching Terriers, where he toiled two seasons before moving on to the Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League (MJAHL) in 2006-07, when he registered 56 goals and 117 points in 54 games.

“I thought at that time that the best thing for me to do was stay home and go to school. If I was feeling better maybe I’d play some hockey this winter. I can’t go any further into the future right now.” Andrew Sweetland

From there, it was off to the University of Maine in 2008 where he put in one season of 17 points in 28 games before he agreed to terms on a free agent contract with the Florida Panthers. As a result, he forfeited his three remaining years of eligibility with the Black Bears.

Sweetland joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans in 2008-09, and finished the season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. He was back with the Americans in 2009-10, registering five goals and 13 points in 51 games.

This season, there were rumours he might get a tryout with the newly-minted St. John’s IceCaps. However, Sweetland said he wasn’t expecting to get a walk-on tryout with the IceCaps.

“When you are in this (hockey) profession, you don’t expect things to be given to you.”

Sweetland is taking a physical education course at Memorial right now, but he’s not sure after that.

“I’m just taking it one step at a time now. I don’t have any set plan. I might do something further in school or I may not need to,” he said.

“It’s not like I’m at the end of my career. I’m probably in my prime. I was playing some of my better hockey in Binghamton where I was getting a good opportunity and things were going well. It’s just unfortunate I picked up the injury.”

As far as what his contribution to the Caribous might be this season, Sweetland hopes to be a consistent point-producer on the reigning Allan Cup Canadian senior hockey champions.

“I’m staying in shape and after this season, I’ll make a decision on my hockey future,” he said.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: American Hockey League, Maritime Junior A Hockey League, IceCaps Tri-Pen Frost AAA Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League University of Maine Florida Panthers

Geographic location: Bonavista, Newfoundland, Binghamton North America Rochester

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  • hockey player
    November 01, 2011 - 17:50

    Sweetland isn't going to make the NHL, hate to break it to you. Brian is completely right, just like all the other great players that went away, trickled away in the minors and never made it to the show. Sure, these guys are great hockey players, but they also gotta realize that there is more to life than hockey. One course at MUN isn't gonna get anybody anywhere, especially in a world where you basically need to further your education beyond a bachelors degree to get anywhere that's worth getting. He'll get paid to play with the caribous, and i'd imagine a decent sum at that. There are alot of great and talented hockey players in the senior league, but this isn't the 80's anymore, and none of them are going to make it to the NHL.

  • Brian O'Grady
    October 31, 2011 - 19:19

    Hey Derrick, I can tell you for sure that you never know where scouts are going to show up. Jordan Tootoo's(Nashville Predators) Uncle Frank, was scouted up in Baker Lake, Nunavut, back in the late 80's in the Keewatin Senior League and was offered a pro tryout with the old Winnipeg Jets at the age of 25. Your cynical remark is now showing your true sarcastic manner. Next time why don't you also use your last name when you comment or are you afraid of something or somebody.

  • Derrick
    October 31, 2011 - 12:59

    Brian....I'm sure the scouts will be scouting the Caribous for 25 year olds.

  • Derrick
    October 31, 2011 - 09:08

    Good idea to listen to his head because he wasn't going anywhere anyway. By the way Andrew, one course at MUN won't get you anywhere in life.

    • Brian O'Grady
      October 31, 2011 - 10:33

      Hey Derrick, at least this guy made it to this level, not like you a couch critic. Also, how do you know he is not going anywhere, that's a real stupid comment to make, If this guy makes it you will be the first one to jump on the bandwagon. My comment is good luck Andrew, all the best, and I hope it works out for you.