As we continue our relay through the multitude of European nations that players have represented in the BC Hockey League throughout league history, our stops today include one of Canada’s biggest rivals in hockey, Mother Russia. Next, we’ll look at “The Happiest Country in the World” – Denmark, and to conclude this leg of our world tour we’ll look at “The Musical Centre of Europe” – Austria.
The red machine
Since 1962 the BCHL has only hosted at least four Russian players, which I was shocked to learn because I thought it would be more. The first Russian player was Roman Smirnov, who joined up with the Surrey Eagles in the 1993-94 season.
From what I could find on Smirnov’s hockey career, he only dressed in 27 games that season and relinquished hockey to achieve more incredible things in life. However, in his 27 games, Smirnov managed to produce 17 points which is respectable considering he received bottom-six minutes.
Excitingly, a subsequent Russian skater joined the league shortly after Smirnov departed, and his name is Ilya Borisychev. He joined the now-defunct Royal City Outlaws in the 1994-95 season.
Unlike Smirnov, though, Borisychev played four seasons of semi-professional hockey in his home country, one for the Soviet third division and three for Pervenstvo VHL. He also played one season with the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League.
Once arriving in New Westminister, Borisychev played seven games and produced nine points. He then was traded by the Outlaws to the Chilliwack Chiefs to complete the 1994-95 season. In 20 games for the Chiefs, he continued his production and netted 13 goals while adding 14 helpers for a total of 27 points.
To end his campaign that season, Borisychev joined the Erie Panthers of the ECHL, where he played in three games and scored once.
Borisychev rejoined the Chiefs for the 1995-96 season and played in 51 games, producing 71 points. Chilliwack was eliminated by the Langley Thunder in the semifinals that year, which concluded Borisychev’s time in the BCHL.
However, he did play one more “season” in North America. In 1996-97, Borisychev joined the West Coast Hockey League and was a part of the Reno Renegades roster. Unfortunately for Borisychev, his professional career was not as sweet as his junior career. In 15 games, Borisychev only produced five points before departing for Sweden. He finished 1996-97 with 10 points in 16 games for Vänersborgs HC.
His time in Sweden was also bittersweet, and for his last season of 1997-98, Borisychev returned home to play for Spartak Moskova-2. He got into eight games and produced one point for the team before retiring.
Like Borisychev. Vladislav Klochkov got plenty of experience in his homeland before coming to Canada. I say Canada because Klochkov didn’t land in BC right away. First, he suited up for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League.
Across two seasons with the Blades from 1996-98, Borisychev laced up in 89 games and produced 50 points. Finally, in his third WHL season, he ended up in Lethbridge, Alberta, to play for the Hurricanes. In 49 games, he posted 27 points, then finally departed the WHL to arrive in BC.
Kolchkov proved to be a man amongst boys when he arrived in the BCHL, suiting up for the tough Chilliwack Chiefs of 1998-99. He lit the league up, netting 62 points in just 36 games. He continued this pace in the playoffs and produced 22 points in all 20 of the Chiefs’ games. Kolchkov went pro after his lone season in the league.
Kolchkov played 15 years of professional hockey in Russia, Belarus, the US, Serbia, and Ukraine. His illustrious career came to a close in 2013.
The last player to represent Russia in the BCHL was Dmitri Levin, who had an all-Canadian hockey career. Starting his playing days in Quebec, Levin got his first taste of Canadian Major Junior hockey with the Val-D’or Foreurs of the QMJHL in 2005-06.
In 2006, he went to Oshawa for a single game to start the OHL season before shipping out to BC to join the Cowichan Valley Capitals. In Cowichan, he got into 23 games and had two points but the Caps traded him to Surrey at the beginning of December that season.
He produced a mere three points in seven games for the Eagles and was sent to the Lindsay Muskies of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League a week before the 2007 trade deadline. Levin last played hockey for the University of Ottawa in 2010.
Hockey = happiness?
Three players from the world’s happiest country, Denmark, have spent time playing within the BCHL. Kicking off the Danes’ start in the league was Dallas Maxwell.
Although Maxwell spent most of his time playing in Denmark, he did so before his BCHL stint and well after. He did play in the league for the Nanaimo Clippers within the last decade. Unfortunately, his time in Nanaimo was short and more bitter than sweet, playing in three games as an affiliate and producing nothing more than a minor penalty in 2013-14.
After spending time in junior B with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings for four games, Maxwell returned home to Denmark to play after the 2013-14 season. He retired from hockey in 2019.
Ludvig Adamsen followed Maxwell’s footsteps, playing plenty of hockey in Denmark before coming to North America. On Vancouver Island, Adamsen spent time with the Victoria Cougars and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, producing four points in 35 games as a defenseman.
In the 2015-16 season, Adamsen finally arrived in the BCHL and played for the Surrey Eagles. In his sole BCHL season, Adamsen was on the roster for 34 games and produced four assists. After that, he spent time in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League before heading home to Denmark to play his pro career.
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) January 20, 2016
Adamsen last played in the 2019-20 season for the Frederikshavn White Hawks of the Denmark Ice Hockey League. The pandemic has placed Adamsen’s playing career on pause.
Like the two Danes before him, Sean Michalewich spent a single season calling the BCHL home. However, Michalewich is still active in the game today and only 20 years old, so there is the chance of him returning one day.
Playing in Denmark until he was 16, Michalewich joined the Red Deer Chiefs U18 team in the Alberta Midget Hockey League. When he turned 18, he joined the BCHL and played four games for the Meritt Centennials as an affiliate player.
Michalewich then went to play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the Kindersley Klippers to end the 2019-20 season. In Kindersley, Michalewich played in 45 games and produced 13 points.
For the 2020-21 season, he played for the Settler Lightning in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League. He had 11 points in four games, so Michalewich may be on the verge of breaking out soon.
Eagles of the Österreich
Austria may rarely win gold medals or world championships in hockey, but the country has produced some good hockey players who have thrived at the highest levels of the game. As a result, two Austrians can proudly say they have spent time within the BCHL, starting with the more notable of the two, Brian Lebler.
Lebler began his playing days with the Summerland Sting of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League in 2003. Somewhere along the way of his 47 games played and 30 points to boot, the Penticton Vees saw some potential and scooped up Lebler for the upcoming 2004-05 season.
Thus, in Q3 of 2004, Lebler made his Vees debut. In his rookie season, he participated in 56 games netting 21 goals and 10 assists.
Lebler played another season with the Vees in 2005-06, continuing his solid production with 25 points in 56 games.
Lebler went onto an NCAA career with the University of Michigan. In 2014, Lebler was a part of team Austria for the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. He continues to rep the international coalition to this day.
Lebler still plays professional club hockey, too. He got into 50 games this season for the Black Wings 1992 of the ICE Hockey League. He was a solid piece of the team, producing 51 points in 50 games.
The final player I will cover today to conclude this leg of the tour is 1998-born Kele Steffler. Like many of his European counterparts in this article, Steffler spent time playing and maturing his game at home in Austria before coming to a BCHL team.
However, what sets Steffler apart is he didn’t spend any of his BCHL career actually in British Columbia. His one season of play came with the 2017-18 Wenatchee Wild, where he laced up for two games.
Steffler spent the last four years fluctuating between Klagenfurter AC and Klagen Furter AC II, and the club has also played in different Austrian leagues.
He will be with Klagenfurter AC in the ICE Hockey League for the upcoming 2021-22 season.