Friend of the blog Terry Watt is having quite the year. He’s currently on his third team and third country in just 6 months. Little did he know that as a young Watt growing up in Ajax, Ontario, he would one day be taking his hockey talents to almost every part of the globe.
After spending most of his early career in the Federal Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League, Watt made the jump down under this past summer and made his debut in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League with the Canterbury Red Devils. With Defenseman of the Year honours and an NZIHL championship under his belt, the ice from France came calling.
However his adventures in France were short-lived as former Red Devils head coach Anatoli Khorozov saved him a spot with his new found team in Kazakhstan, Beibarys Atyrau. He now skates alongside Olympians and former NHlers. Not bad for a kid from Ajax. I caught up with him to see how his Kazak adventures are fairing out.
March Hockey: How different is it playing in an up and coming hockey country such as Kazakhstan?
Terry Watt: First of all, playing here is a tremendous honor. I’m a player that has been given a really good and rare opportunity to play with and against some elite hockey players. The hockey here is really fast and filled with lots of skill. To be able to practice and learn every day from guys who have played in the Olympics, NHL and KHL is a bit surreal for me considering almost a year ago I was playing Single A pro back in North America. One thing that is noticeably different is that everything we do here is monitored and written down. Every day at practice we all wear heart monitors and our recover time is noted in every situation we do. The big thing for me this year is to just be a sponge and absorb as much information and learn as much as I can from these guys and try and translate it into my game to hopefully become a better player moving forward.
March Hockey: This is your third team and third country this year. What are some of the differences and similarities between them, hockey wise?
Terry Watt: Playing here is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The hockey on and off the ice is very demanding. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do physically and mentally. With the exception of myself, all the Canadians on my team have played in the NHL, AHL, ECHL and CHL – from what they tell me, playing here is very comparable to those leagues in many regards for the exception of the NHL .
Each day we are usually at the rink for roughly 7-9 hrs. Some days we have two practices. When we aren’t practicing we are in the gym lifting or on the ice we are doing some type of aerobic workouts. Back in North America most pro teams practice in the mornings and then are done for the day; however some guys head to the gym for a work out, but after that their day is pretty much done. In Kazakhstan they take care of us pretty well. We have all our meals catered, and even at times brought to the rink so we don’t lose any time practicing or preparing for our next game. I’ve only been here for just under a month and I will be traveling with the team for the first time this week. We are going on a two week road trip where we will play 6 games all through the country. The guys tell me that they spend hours on planes and even some 36 hour train trips to games – so conditioning is going to play a huge role in me getting use to the Olympic size ice and intense travel schedule. These are just a few things that separate the difference in hockey here oppose to back in North America. The simple answer to your question is that this experience is something completely new to me.
March Hockey: Any crazy customs you’ve witnessed over there? Off or on the ice?
Terry Watt: Where to start. On the ice I would say we do many different drills that I’ve never seen before and our coach pushes us really hard off the ice also. Our weekly schedule is almost like a training camp that teams do prior to the season starting to get ready for he year. On the other hand our team has been to the finals 4 years in a row and have won it all twice, so I guess the coach’s know what they are doing. Off the ice I would say everything is a bit of a shock and very different. The food is something else, I ate horse for the first time about a week ago; something I don’t think they would serve us back in North America.
March Hockey: What’s it like to be back under the wing of Anatoli for a second time?
Terry Watt: Being back with Coach Khorozov is awesome. Him and I hit it off well when I joined his team in New Zealand over the summer. We were able to win a championship together and our hoping to do the same here in Kazakhstan. This man has been nothing but honest and great to me since I met him. When he called me just over a month ago and asked me to come he told me straight up how hard it was going to be here and made no promises of me even dressing every night. He told me that ever minute of ice time I get would have to be earned because the team carries 10 or so defenseman at any given time. He has given me a very rare opportunity that I am very grateful for.
March Hockey: So far, who’s the best or toughest player you’ve faced in the Kazak league?
Terry Watt: To be completely honest I never try to idolize or put any of my oppents on a pedlstool, I like to think of them as the enemy and keep it that way. Not to take anything away from players on other teams in games I’ve played in but I feel thats the attitude you have to have when playing other teams. I’ve been playing with exceptional hockey players over these past few weeks-Guys like Armands Berzins, who played for his country in the last Olympics in Vancouver and is expected to join them again in Sochi. -Mike Danton (who has played over 100 NHL games) and Ian McDonald (who has been a proven scoring threat in almost every top league in North America and Europe). Mikko Pukka, my D partner from the games I’ve played in, has played over 400 games in SM-Liiga the top Finnish league. These are my teammates and the guy’s I’m focusing on and learning from everyday, and in my eyes are the best I’ve come across yet.
March Hockey: Any well wishes for your fans and family back home in North America (and of course, let’s not forget the Canterbury Red Devils!)?
Terry Watt: Well it’s been almost 7 months since I’ve really been back in North America. It’s been a crazy year for me, I went from New Zealand to France and now I am in Kazakhstan. Not really sure I have a fan base I’m just a small fish in a really big pond. But if their are some people who think I’m interesting enough to follow I would like to thank them and hope my rare and crazy journey gives them some laughs. As for my family, most of them have been tremendously amazing and supportive over the past three years. I couldn’t thank them enough for the support they haven given me. I know my Mom will be happy one day when my hockey is over so I’m closer to home.
As for the Red Devils, I know losing coach Khorozov is a big blow but the management team in Christ Church takes winning serious and I know they want to go for 3 championships in a row, which has never been done before. Knowing Jake Lane, Graham Tappin and Tim Ratcliffe, these guys have probably hired the next best coach out there. I wish them the best of luck next season, and from knowing the type players they have coming back I’m sure they will be able to get their 3peat.