Ice time was draw for German goalie

Robin
Robin Short
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JUNIOR HOCKEY

Moving to a new city or province is generally nothing new to most Canadian junior hockey players, but imagine packing up the gear and heading off half-way around the world for a skate?

Since the Canadian Hockey League opened its doors to European talent, there's been a steady wave of Euros coming across the Atlantic, and St. John's has seen its share.

St. John's Fog Devils' new goaltender Timo Pielmeier looks to be a good fit for the QMJHL team. Fog Devils' photo

Moving to a new city or province is generally nothing new to most Canadian junior hockey players, but imagine packing up the gear and heading off half-way around the world for a skate?

Since the Canadian Hockey League opened its doors to European talent, there's been a steady wave of Euros coming across the Atlantic, and St. John's has seen its share.

The Fog Devils featured Sweden's Oscar Sundh in their first year of operation.

Countryman Mario Kempe was a pleasant surprise last year and is expected to be a big producer this season.

Same goes for the Foggies' latest European import, goaltender Timo Pielmeier courtesy of Germany.

Not that it's any easier for Euros moving to Canada, but it doesn't take long while talking to Pielmeier to understand the reasoning for his long excursion from home.

"I do everything for ice hockey," he said recently. "If it means moving to a new country, I'll do it. I'm here to play hockey, not for the lifestyle or the food or anything else.

"I like it here, the town, the rink. I'm staying with a nice family. But I'm here for the hockey."

And that's music to the ears of Fog Devils coach Real Paiement, who addressed a gaping hole in goal with the addition of Pielmeier.

While Pierre-Alexandre Marion was an improvement over Ilia Ejov last season, he clearly wasn't the answer to the goaltending question this year. And it's not like you can throw in midget draft pick Jake Allen, fresh from the New Brunswick minor ranks, and expect him to make 50 or 60 starts.

So Pielmeier came along at just the right time, even if he wasn't the Fog Devils' first choice. St. John's was actually eyeing Czech Jaroslav Janus in the CHL European draft, but Janus went second overall to the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters. Option 2, Robert Mayes of Switzerland, went directly after Janus to the Saint John Sea Dogs, the Fog Devils' Quebec Major Junior Hockey League expansion cousins.

The Fog Devils landed Pielmeier 12th overall.

It was the second time the 18-year-old from Deggendorf, just north of Munich, had been drafted over the summer.

In June, the San Jose Sharks made him their third-round choice, 83rd overall, in the NHL Entry Draft after watching him play for the Cologne Sharks of the German junior league last season where he went 24-11 with a 2.17 goals against average.

While the Sharks pushed Pielmeier to come to North America to play junior, and the Fog Devils were wooing the youngster, it was far from a done deal. That was mainly because the Berlin Ice Barons laid 35,000 Euros (about $60,000 Cdn.) on the table for him to play in the German Elite league this season.

However, Pielmeier had an out clause which allowed him to come to North America if he wished.

"It was important," Pielmeier says now, "to look beyond the money. I had to look at playing a lot. I would have earned good money playing in Germany, but if I make the next step (to the NHL), I can earn a lot more money in the next 10 years."

Sounds simple enough, but for a while, Paiement was wondering if he'd laid the right cards.

"Before we picked him," said the Fog Devils coach and GM, "we talked to his agent (Rollie Thompson) who said Timo would not come over, that he was comfortable in Berlin. But through a contact I had in the Czech Republic, I knew that he had an agreement with another team over here.

"In my last conversation with the agent before the draft, he said, 'Real, if I was you, I wouldn't draft him.' I said, 'If I draft him, I either have a lot of guts, or I'm stupid.' But I had some information.

"After we drafted him, I talked with Timo on the phone and he was very cold. We agreed to let him talk it out with the agent for three or four days. Then I heard a rumour out of Ontario that he wasn't coming.

"On a Saturday, the agent calls me and says, 'Real, I'd call him tomorrow because as of now, he's not coming.' He'd been living on his own since he was 15 and he was leaving a lot of money on the table. Here, he makes $50 a week."

While Paiement could probably arrange to do better than the 50 bucks - "but nothing close to what Berlin was paying" - Paiement could definitely promise what Pielmeier wanted all along - ice time, and plenty of it.

He finally received the good news through an email July 30.

"I can get 50 or more games here and only 30 in Germany," he said. "There's better development over here. Junior hockey is run more like the pros. It's the first step to the AHL and then the NHL."

Pielmeier will miss some games this season. He won't be with the Fog Devils when they open a new season Friday night in Cape Breton because he's at the Sharks' training camp where he's reportedly playing well.

And he'll miss time in December preparing for and playing in the world junior championship. It's at the world juniors where Pielmeier was noticed last season. He starred in a 3-1 Germany loss to Canada, his only start.

"I think," Paiement said, "you can have the best players in the world playing the best systems, but the bottom line is if you get scored on by weak goals on a regular basis, it kills your confidence as a team."

rshort@thetelegram.com

Telegram Sports Editor

Organizations: Canadian Hockey League, San Jose Sharks, NHL Ontario Hockey League

Geographic location: Germany, St. John's, Canada Atlantic Sweden North America New Brunswick Switzerland Saint John Berlin Quebec Deggendorf Munich Czech Republic Ontario Cape Breton

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