Andrew Gordon played eight professional hockey league seasons before deciding to make a big career decision this week, signing with Linkoping in Sweden. The 29-year-old veteran winger had seriously thought about potentially playing overseas over the past few seasons, but after zero games in the NHL the past two seasons, he clearly saw an appealing opportunity in Sweden for the 2015-16 campaign.
“It’s something that I’ve been interested in for a lot of years,” Gordon said in an interview with The Hockey Writers Thursday afternoon. “I’ve thought about going over there for a long time, but had to wait till I was really ready, until I had exhausted my NHL opportunities.”
Gordon has played in 501 career AHL contests along with 55 games in the NHL, but the routines are common and there are only so many bus routes available for a minor league hockey player who is approaching his tenth season in pro hockey in the 2016-17 season.
Playing in Sweden offers a more lucrative contract as opposed to signing another two-way contract, which can’t ever guarantee any NHL playing time, but rather more three games in three nights stretches in a grinding AHL schedule that he’s experienced time and time again.
Im happy to announce that I've signed with @LHChockey for next season! I have SO much to look forward to, I can't express how excited I am!!
— Andrew Gordon (@AndrewGordon10) June 3, 2015
“I hadn’t been recalled in two full seasons now and thought now was as good of a time as any,” he said. “After eight years in the AHL I was ready for a change, mentally. I’ve done a lot of the same road trips to the same buildings or the same hotels, I was sort of ready to see a different part of the world and get a different experience.”
Linkoping contacted several key people who had relationships with Gordon prior to reaching out to the longtime AHL winger. The team featured former Hershey Bears forward Jeff Taffe last season along with Capitals’ 2014 first round selection Jakub Vrana last season.
“Before they got in contact with me they were in contact with some other players and coaches about me,” Gordon explained. “I knew that they were interested before they actually called me, the whole process from the initial offer to the one I signed only took a couple of weeks. Most of that was tiptoeing our way through the legal work of getting the contract done in the right language for it to apply tax-wise in both countries.”
Thus, thank you to all who made these last 8 years in hockey so awesome! So many great people and memories. Can't wait to see what's next!
— Andrew Gordon (@AndrewGordon10) June 3, 2015
The St. Cloud State product played for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season and collected 42 points in 76 games. It was the second consecutive season Gordon played a full season, showcasing his durability as a player, one of the best attributes he has brought to the table in his eight year career thus far.
He’s won two Calder Cups with the Hershey Bears and has been one of the most consistent forwards in the AHL. In his 501 career AHL games, Gordon has notched 167 goals and 199 assists for 366 total points, an average of .73 per contest.
“They’ll be missed by the Hershey Bears and the American Hockey League,” Hershey Bears GM Doug Yingst told the Patriot News after former Bears’ forwards Tim Kennedy and Andrew Gordon announced their overseas plans. “We certainly had interest in trying to sign any one of them. But when you can get the contracts they got and its tax-free dollars, we wish them the very best.”
Money plays a significant role in contract decisions and the pay overseas is usually better than in the AHL. Gordon’s situation is no different and the money was an enticing part of his decision to play in Sweden.
“It is financially better (than the AHL),” Gordon said. “The teams pay a lot of the taxes for you, your living expenses, your car and your housing as well. Your expenses go down and your salary goes up in Sweden. Even if it just goes up marginally it stretches further with all those expenses.”
“If I had an opportunity for guaranteed NHL time (one-way deal), that’s the dream, that’s the goal and that’s what everybody wants,” he said. “At 29 I’m not an up-and-coming first round pick with lots of promise, teams know what they’re getting out of me. I’ve been through five organizations in eight seasons, been through waivers once or twice every single year.”
Playing overseas is a common move for AHL veterans who are looking for a more lucrative contract and a new experience. The schedules are far more accommodating in the SHL as opposed to the AHL, along with a different style of play. Gordon felt he would have been passed over again for an NHL opportunity and probably supplanted back in the minors for another season.
“Teams aren’t chomping at the bit to get you there,” he said. “I felt like my opportunity to really be a fulltime NHL player might have passed me by. If I came back to the AHL for another year I felt my heart wouldn’t be as quite as committed as it had been in the past. There’s already been a shot of enthusiasm back into me that I was looking for.”
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.