Making the NHL is very tough. Not that this was news to anybody, but in every sport, making the top competitive league is no easy feat. Not many are born with the natural talent of Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, and many if not all NHL players have to put in a considerable amount of hard work and discipline just to stay in the league. This works out for some (Matt Read) and for others, eventually that flame runs out. However, this does not mean that they stop playing hockey. Many players will finish their careers in the AHL, or even travel to their home countries in Europe to play. There are even some who go to Europe regardless to find ice time. These are some notable former Flyers who have dared to cross the pond in search of a place to skate (prepare for nostalgia):
The bruising forward, after spending the 2015-16 season with the Phantoms, moved to Scotland where he played in Britain’s EIHL for the Braehead (Glasgow) Clan, serving as an alternate captain. The following season, he swapped Glasgow for Manchester, serving as captain of the Manchester Storm. He has now retired from professional hockey. Captain Jay Rosehill. Who would’ve thought? He tallied 39 total points (10 G, 29 A) in 82 games.
Vandermeer (somehow) enjoyed a lengthy NHL career, playing 9 of 12 seasons in the NHL and 3 in the AHL. He may be most known for his time as a Flyer, but Vandermeer also played for the Blackhawks, Flames, Coyotes, Oilers, and Sharks. He served as an alternate captain for both the Oilers and Blackhawks. In 2013-14, he swapped North America for Switzerland, signing for the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss National League for two seasons (92 GP, 5 G, 17 A, 22 P). He then moved on to play for the Belfast Giants in the EIHL, where he still plays today at age 38. Not counting this season (or cup matches), he has played in 95 league games (17 G, 43 A, 60 P).
Hakstol’s favorite hockey boy! VandeVelde is the most recent Flyer on the list to play abroad. As we all know, VandeVelde enjoyed (to our misery) 4 seasons in the NHL with the Flyers before the team released him after 2016-17. He then had a trial with Ottawa but the team did not sign him, so he looked to Europe for a new club. For the 2017-18 season, he signed with Lukko of the Finnish Liiga, serving as an alternate captain (27 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 16P). This season, the prodigal 4th liner finds himself in Austria, playing for EC Salzburg, where he has 1 goal and 4 assists through 12 games. In all honesty, the fact that VandeVelde scores at such a low pace in European leagues makes me even more disheartened in retrospect at the amount of playing time he received in the NHL under Dave Hakstol. Thanks Dave.
Talbot will mostly be remembered for his role on the Penguins teams during the late 00’s that won the Stanley Cup in 2008-09, however, he did spend 3 years as a Flyer from 2011-12 to 2013-14. After his time in Philadelphia, he spent two years each in Colorado and Boston before leaving the NHL. in 2016-17, he signed with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL and played for two seasons as an alternate captain. For 2018-19, he signed with another KHL club, Avangard Omsk. In the KHL so far, he has played in 124 games, with 26 goals and 34 assists for 60 points.
McGillis may be the best player on the list in terms of skill. He enjoyed a long career in the NHL from 1996 to 2006 before spending two years in the AHL. McGillis then spent three seasons in Germany, playing for Adler Mannheim of the DEL. He played in 102 games total for 34 points (8 G, 26 A).
There are a host of other names who have gone on to play hockey in Europe, but most of them were already European and were simply returning home, so I chose to omit them. They would include Andreas Nodl, Sami Kapapen, and Nicklas Grossmann among others.
Maybe soon that list will include Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera? We can certainly dream.