Kevin Doell was the ECHL rookie of the year as a member of the Gwinnett Gladiators with 74 points over 63 games in 2003-04 and made his NHL debut two years ago with the Atlanta Thrashers.
Doell, who recently turned 30, played most of four seasons for the AHL Chicago Wolves before opting to go to Sweden last year. With Leksands, the center put up 49 points and 105 penalty minutes in 37 games.
Doell was back in Gwinnett this week though, after signing with the Wolves and getting invited to the Thrashers' training camp.
The Saskatoon, Sask., native took some time following a practice at the IceForum in Duluth to talk to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including playing and living overseas, for this installment of "Getting to Know ...."
CT: So you're back in North America?
KD: Yep. It feels good.
CT: What was your decision-making process like this summer - because it was still a choice right? Did you think about staying over there?
KD: Oh, yeah. As far as the end of the year goes, I was ready and willing to go back over there. But it was always in the back of my mind that maybe I'd come back over here and try for another year or two and see what happens.
Then when I got back, I got a phone call and it was Kevin Cheveldayoff (the Wolves' longtime general manager who later in the summer was named the Chicago Blackhawks' assistant GM) and things just started from there.
CT: How was playing in Sweden?
KD: It was good. A lot less games, kind of more like a college schedule with weekend games and stuff like that. But it was pretty good. I enjoyed it. I mean, there's definitely a lot of skill over there in Sweden and they play a different game. There's not too much hitting and whatnot, but I enjoyed my time there.
CT: Well, you never seemed like a guy that was afraid of getting hit or giving a hit. So do you have a preference when it comes to style of game? Would you rather play the North American style?
KD: It doesn't really matter to me. It's always nice to score some goals and stuff. To get to do that again was fun. But I know that in North America, my game is pretty much an energy player, try to lay some hits, take the body and play a defensive game.
Either way, I'm happy. I'll do whatever's needed.
CT: Talking to (another former Gladiator) Scott Mifsud, he had spent the last two years over in Europe and the first year he was there, it was a league that allowed just two North American players per team. So the pressure was really on. What were the rules in the league you were in?
KD: It was the same. Two North American players and that was it. So I mean, if you're not scoring or doing your job or what they want, they don't really like that. They're not afraid to let guys go and bring in new guys. So there is pressure that way.
CT: Are the fans all over you too in Sweden? Or is it a little more laid-back?
KD: No, they definitely let you know once in a while. They're pretty good actually once you get off the rink, they'll leave you alone. There was the odd time where you'd lose a couple games in a row and they'll let you know what they think or what they want you to do better. But that's everywhere.
CT: How was the living situation for you? I'm assuming you didn't speak any Swedish when you left?
KD: It was good. In Sweden almost everybody can speak English. It's an easier transition than other countries. They're good people. Everyone I met and played with were really nice people. Really friendly and stuff and that made the transition easier also.
CT: What was the city you were in like?
KD: It was small. About 5,000 people. It's actually where Moose (Thrashers' goalie Johan Hedberg) is from. It was a little different, but I grew up in Saskatchewan and played junior hockey in Melfort, which is like 10,000 people. So it was nothing new for me. But I guess moving from Chicago to there was a little different. It was a good change of pace, a lot more laid back. It was fun.
CT: Were you there just for the season?
KD: No, actually over there in Sweden, they have a six-month contract where you can only be there that long. If you stay a day after the six months then you have to pay, I don't know, like 25, 30 percent more in taxes.
But after the season I went around and traveled for three weeks around Europe. I'd never been over there so I figured I'd take advantage.
CT: Any favorite things you saw while you were there?
KD: A couple of the soccer games. I went to a Manchester United and got to see Barcelona. That was pretty cool. And then Rome was pretty crazy.
CT: It's hard to argue with Rome.
KD: Exactly. The Vatican and everything.
CT: What other countries did you hit?
KD: Spain. Italy obviously. Ireland.
CT: Did you get a proper Guinness?
KD: Oh, yeah. (laughing) The area where I stayed there were bars and pubs everywhere. I went to the Guinness storehouse where they have the first Guinness factory and did that tour. Then I went to England and stopped in France and Paris.
CT: How was that?
KD: It was good. I actually played with a guy from Paris last year so he gave me the things to do and see there.
CT: Were they nice to you? I guess you're Canadian though, not American.
KD: (laughing) No, yeah, the person at the hotel was really nice. There was a guy there that really helped me out a lot with the trains and the metro and stuff. They were actually pretty helpful.
CT: You didn't have to wear a Canadian flag on your backpack or anything?
KD: No. But I didn't wear any USA or anything like that (laughing).
CT: So I guess the plan here is just play as well as you can at (Thrashers) training camp and go from there?
KD: Exactly. Same as always - come into camp, make and impression and then wait and see what happens after that.