Note: This is the first 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- Though Mikelis Redlihs hails from Riga, Latvia, he joined New York Apple Core with the same goal as all of the local players on the rosters: college hockey. After a successful youth hockey career with Prizma Riga, he followed in older brother Jekabs’ footsteps and traveled to Atlantic Beach, NY, to further his hockey career and hopefully join him in the NCAA ranks.
“I joined Apple Core because I thought it would be a great opportunity to play hockey and to help me go to college,” he said. “That didn’t happen, but I’m very happy the way it turned out.”
Redlihs suited up for Apple Core at the beginning of the 2002-03 season before joining Team Latvia for the Division I World Junior Championships and then returned to the EJHL with the Boston Harbor Wolves.
Though he did not achieve his goal of an NCAA scholarship, he played well enough to earn a contract with HK Riga 2000 for the next two seasons. He then traveled to Sweden to play for Björklöven in the Allsvenskan league in the 2005-06 season with time off to compete for Latvia in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.
From there, Redlihs traveled to Belarus to play for Yunost Minsk in the 2006-07 season followed by a season with Metallurg Zhlobin before returning home to play in the Kontinental Hockey League’s Dinamo Riga at the beginning of the 2008-09 season.
“A lot of the national team players are also on Dinamo, so it’s great to play for them. A lot of us have been playing together for three years now,” he noted.
Internationally, Redlihs has represented Latvia in the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games and appeared in the IIHF World Championships in each of the past eight years. Next year, he will suit up for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl as they reenter the KHL after a dormant season caused by a devastating plane crash.
Reflecting on his year in the EJHL, Redlihs recalled, “[Playing in the EJHL] was a really good experience playing in the league and living in America. I wished I could have come back, but that one year was good for me, for hockey, and for my life.”
-Mike Klein, 16 May 2012