Pittsburgh Penguins and KHL Medveščak player Dustin Jeffrey talks to UK American Sports Fans
Pittsburgh : Whilst the NHL and the NHLPA are arguing over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players are looking for games in readiness for the commencement of the league. Teams outside of North America are keen to sign players, even for a curtailed period, for their ability and commercial appeal. KHL Medveščak Zagreb are one team who have been quick to swoop. Their recent ‘Arena Ice Fever’ event demonstrated the ambition and commercial proactivity. So, I’m not surprised that they have signed the Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey.
Dustin Jeffrey has made 66 appearances so far for the Penguins and has scored 12 goals with 9 assists. His NHL appearances have been interspersed with games for the ‘Baby Pens’, Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. As a Penguins fan myself, I was only too pleased when ‘the Bears’, as they are known, agreed to letting me interview Jeffrey. The Head of Media PR, Ranko Vucinic, was instrumental in this and I’d personally like to thank him for giving UK American Sports Fans access.
My first question to Dustin was about his decision to play for KHL Medveščak Zagreb. He had been linked with a Dutch team, Destil Trappers Tilburg, but finally signed for ‘the Bears’. “My friendship and connection with Alan Letang (a defenceman with KHL Medveščak) with whom I trained for the past couple of summers, as well I know couple of my new team mates from before.”
With the ‘coup’ of signing an NHL player, there comes a responsibility to deliver. Jeffrey is more than just a number in Pittsburgh but when you play in a team with Crosby and Malkin, you’re not the star! However, a move like this will have expectation and I wanted to know how being the ‘star player’ might affect Jeffrey’s performance.
As much as Dustin Jeffrey takes a level-headed approach to hockey, fans can have huge expectations. I wanted to know how the fans had reacted to him joining the club. “The fans were one of the reasons why I joined the club and they have proven to be everything I expected. The best word to describe the fans is they are truly crazy in the most positive way, I had an unbelievable reception and the fans warmed up to me. Although the NHL has larger arenas, you do not get this electric atmosphere like the one we had last Friday when we played at home against Znojmo.”
Even though it is highly unlikely, the NHL lockout could end at any point. This would signal the end of Jeffrey’s time in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. My next question was about how Jeffrey would approach his time. “I try to use my time playing for the Bears as much as possible on and off the ice. On the ice, I try to play my best and train hard to stay in shape as much as possible. Off the ice, I try to see as much as possible and, in general, take advantage of everything I can while staying in Croatia.” I wanted to explore this further so enquired if Jeffrey had been to Croatia before. “This is my first time in Europe and I have plans to visit the coast and other cities beside the capital of Zagreb, but as well the neighboring countries. We just had a free day and I visited Venice, Italy, and really enjoyed it.”
Finally, I wanted to approach the thorny subject of the NHL lockout. Everyone involved has an opinion and I was interested to see how players were approaching it. I asked if there were any positives to be taken from the lockout. “There is nothing to be taken from the lockout, it is a negative thing for the owners as it is for the players. More importantly, the biggest loss is for the fans. In the end we play for them. I expect more players from NHL to come to Europe during the lockout in the coming period.”
So there we have it. Players like Dustin Jeffrey are making the best of a bad situation. Fans outside of North America are benefitting by seeing players from the best league in the world ply their trade. Like Jeffrey, I think more players will go to Europe whilst the NHL and NHLPA posture and pontificate.
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