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Luke Adam was on the NHL/minor league return express for the better part of six seasons back in the mid-2000s, growing weary and exasperated of shuffling between the NHL and the American Hockey League almost yearly, beginning three years after the Buffalo Sabres made him a second-round NHL draft pick.
So the St. John’s product opted to look overseas, and eventually settled in Germany where he’s carved himself a fine four-year career so far.
So less than two weeks after another couple of local hockey stars — Zach O’Brien and Marcus Power, from the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers — signed with German second division team EV Landshut, and Growlers’ MVP Brady Ferguson inked a deal with a Swedish club Rogle BK, Adam has some advice for the three: go and enjoy … you won’t regret it.
Difference is, of course, Adam landed in Europe after five on-and-off years in the National Hockey League. The other three are coming from the North American minors, and the second rung — ECHL — on the minor pro ladder.
Hard to believe Adam just completed a fourth year in Germany, and there are still moments when he asks himself if, at 26, he pulled the plug too early on a North American pro career.
Adam was drafted 44th overall in 2008, two years before winning a silver medal at the world junior championship. In 2010-11, he was the AHL’s rookie of the year.
Adam would play 90 NHL games over the next five seasons, 87 in Buffalo and a trio with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He signed a free agent contract with the New York Rangers in 2015, and spent a year with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford that season.
The next year, Adam was invited to the Calgary Flames’ training camp on a professional tryout. He was released after about a week, and made the leap … over the Atlantic Ocean.
“I kind of got into that up-and-down guy,” he said of players shifting between the NHL and the minors. “That’s hard, too, especially when you get older and you have a wife. Maybe not so much when you don’t have kids, but when you do have kids, it becomes really hard.
“Europe has been great. There are 52 (regular season) games, so it’s a lot easier on the body, and there no back-to-back nights.
“Germany is very much a North Americanized league. Teams are allowed nine imports, and the game itself hasn’t changed a whole lot for me. Just the size of the rink. That took some getting used to.”
Beginning in 2016-17, Adam played three seasons with Adler Mannheim (the Eagles), winning the league title, his first championship, in 2018-19 (he was second in playoff scoring with 13 points in 14 games).
Adam signed with Dusseldorf as a free agent last year, and registered 30 points in 48 games for his new team this past season.
“There are always days when you wonder, ‘Should I have stuck it out for another year? (in North America, trying to land full-time NHL employment)?’ Who knows. Maybe it would have worked out better, maybe not. But we’re in a good position over there,” he said from his off-season home in Arizona, where 10-month-old Steele is the family’s new addition.
“I’ve put myself on the map being a good player in that league. I’ve had success there, and I’m definitely happy with the decision.”
European teams generally open training camp in early August. If there’s going to be a season in 2020-21 is anyone’s guess.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort