Note: This is the second of a three-part series detailing the careers of players who came to America to play in the EJHL. The interviews, all conducted at the 2012 IIHF World Championships, explore what brought the players to the EJHL and where their hockey careers have taken them since then.
Stockholm, SWEDEN- When Anton Bernard needed a place to play for the 2009-10 season, he found help from an unlikely source: a teammate for the Balzano Foxes of the Italian Serie A League who had a family connection to the EJHL.
“I was playing with Mike Souza (cousin of 2007 EJHL Player of the Year Paul Thompson), who went to the University of New Hampshire, and he made some calls for me and got me a tryout with the Valley Jr. Warriors,” Bernard recalled. “The beginning of the year was tough, the game was much more intense because of the smaller rink, but I was able to adjust and had a great year.”
Once the adjustment period passed, Bernard excelled, leading the Warriors in scoring with 33 goals, tied for second in the league, and 17 assists.
The following season, Bernard returned to Balzano after a brief stop in Finland and enrolled in university.
“The first year back home was good, but the second year was even better. We won the championship last year, so that was great,” he noted.
Bernard made his World Championship debut this year as Italy competed in the Elite Division after earning promotion from Division One the previous season.
“Everything [in Stockholm] has been great. It’s been a tremendous experience being here,” he said. “The goal is to stay in the top division, but it’s been an honor to play here with some of the best players in the world.”
Reflecting on his season in the EJHL, Bernard stated, “The league commits a lot of guys to Division One hockey and that’s why I played [for Valley]. It was great for my development and I’d recommend that league to anyone who gets the chance to play there.”
-Mike Klein, 23 May 2012