American Hockey League veteran Graham Mink wants to play in the AHL at least one more season. However, the former Hershey Bears forward is focused on his first year playing overseas.
The 34 year old winger is playing in Austria this year, for Dornbirner EC. His club has played three regular season games to this point, and Mink, an alternate Captain in his first season with his new team, has two goals and an assist already.
“The move has been an adjustment but now that the season is underway things are settling into the normal hockey life routine,” Mink told The Hockey Writers. “There are eleven other North Americans on my team and the coach is North American so in that sense I feel very comfortable. We miss our friends and family back home but we are excited to see a new part of the world and we know we won’t get an opportunity like this once I am done playing hockey.”
Mink played for the Providence Bruins of the AHL last season, but didn’t sign a contract till the midway point of the season due to the complications regarding the NHL lockout that listed until January. He didn’t want to take that risk again this summer, so he signed overseas.
“I would have liked to stay in the AHL, if possible,” stated the former Hershey forward. “But given the number of guys looking for jobs I wasn’t willing to wait around until August or September to get a job. The lockout cost me half a season the year before and I thought that I was going to have to retire then. I didn’t want to be in that situation again.”
Last year in Providence, Mink contributed 18 points through 33 regular season games. He played a big role in the locker room for young players, including Bruins’ forward prospects Ryan Spooner, Carter Camper and Jamie Tardif. The Bruins finished tops in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, with 105 standings points in the regular season.
Providence wiped away a 2-0 series deficit against the Hershey Bears in round one of the Eastern Conference playoffs with three straight wins, but fell in the semi-finals the following round against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
“Providence last year was a very good team, and I am disappointed we didn’t go further in the playoffs. We ran into a good defensive team with a hot goalie and they got the better of us. I would rank them 3rd of the 13 teams I have played on, with the two championship teams being ahead of them.”
In Austria the rink size is slightly larger and is something Mink is learning to adjust to. He’s also been adapting to the new culture in Austria, along with his new life in another country.
“In some ways Austria is very different than the US. Obviously the culture, language and food are different and have taken a little getting used to.” said Mink.
“The hockey itself is more open, given the larger ice surface. You have more time to make plays in some areas of the ice and less in others. You need to learn when to chase and when to sit back, because you can waste a lot of energy skating around and being ineffective.”
The Hershey Bears decided not to renew former coach Mark French’s contract after three straight first round exits in the AHL playoffs this summer. Mink played under French, now a coach in Croatia in the KHL, winning the cup with the then first year Bears’ coach during the 2008-2009 campaign.
“Mark was a good coach and I wish him the best of luck in Zagreb of the KHL this season.”
For now Mink will continue to adjust to the lifestyle and culture of Austria along with playing another strong year of hockey, in hopes of earning an AHL contract for the 2013-2014 season.
“I would love to play in the AHL for another season. Hopefully that can happen next year.”
Matthew Speck covers the Washington Capitals organization for The Hockey Writers. He provides coverage of both Washington at the NHL level and prospect related content. Matthew also covers local sports for the Lebanon Daily News in Central Pennsylvania. You can email him at email@example.com with any questions or comments.