Bangor native and former University of Maine standout Derek Damon had a productive year playing professional hockey in Finland and signed a one-year contract to play in Germany on Monday.
The 28-year-old Damon had 13 goals and 18 assists in 55 games for Assat Pori in the Finnish Elite League and has signed with the Kassel Huskies in Germany’s top pro league.
“The quality of life outside of the rink is supposed to be a lot better in Germany,” said Damon. “It was so dark in Finland. It was a tough winter.”
However, he said he learned a lot playing in Finland.
“It was a great experience. They play on Olympic-sized ice sheets and skating is one of my weakest points. That’s what I needed to work on and going over there helped me with that. My skating has improved so much. That league is so quick and so up-tempo. They had 75 guys who had played in the NHL,” said Damon.
“I was happy with the way I played. I could have scored more but the leading scorer barely averaged a point per game,” added Damon.
Damon had 53 goals and 78 assists in 107 games over two seasons for the Florida Everblades in the ECHL and 2 & 3 in 15 games for Albany in the AHL in 2007-2008.
He also said the players work out before and after practice and he worked on his explosiveness and speed.
He ate a lot of “reindeer and fish” and drank a lot of strong coffee. He said he was well-paid.
Damon played against former Bear All-American Steve Kariya and said “it was awesome. Steve has gotten better and better. The game over there fits him so well because he’s such a fast player and has such good skill around the net.”
Damon said the Finnish League allows just three imported players while the German League allows 10.
Erik Rasmussen, who had played in 545 NHL games and the Stanley Cup finals, was the only other North American on his team.
“I learned so much from him,” said Damon. “He has seen it all.”