By Paul Osborne
Most people know that former Guelph Storm star Matt D’Agostini is off to a great start with the Montreal Canadiens scoring three goals in his first four games. And people recognize the great performances of Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown out in LA and even former Storm netminder Craig Anderson is having an amazing season with a gaudy save percentage of .943 with the Florida Panthers. But you haven’t heard much about another former Storm player who is leading his team in scoring and having an all-star season.
Kevin Dallman is on what you might call a hockey adventure. After playing the better part of the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings he chose to play this season with the Astana Barys of the much talked about Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Astana is actually the capital of Kazakhstan and while he has not had a Borat sighting yet, he is enjoying the experience.
“My wife and kids arrived in October” said Dallman. “The culture is a bit different, but the team has made it easy to adjust by providing a driving service and Russian/English translators. Astana is a brand new city and everything is very modern. The city is trying to cater to foreigners and many of the restaurants offer English menus and most stores try to have at least one English speaking sales person which is helpful.”
Dallman, 27, ended up in Kazakhstan after his NHL status because a little less clear. There was a chance he would have had to spend time in the American Hockey League which would have meant a drastic cut in pay, so the opportunity to play in Kazakhstan seemed like a viable option.
“There are very few players that make the high end of the salary (in the KHL)” said the native of Niagara Falls, “but most of the North American players make more money than the NHL minimum salary (currently $475,000), and it’s tax free. We get bonuses for wins, the team pays for our housing, flights, cars and we get the translators and driving service.”
In other words, it’s a pretty good deal. Dallman who was always a great puck mover loves the bigger ice surface they play on in Europe.
“The hockey is really good. Although comparable to the NHL, the ice surface is Olympic size which gives players more time with the puck, where as in the NHL you have to make quick plays. Guys in the NHL are bigger and tend to hit more than they do in the KHL.”
He has been a hit in his first season. He is leading his team in scoring as a defencemen with 15 goals and 30 points and his club currently has a record of 18-12-1-0. His teammates include a few players that will be familiar to Guelph fans: Jozef Stumpel who played almost one thousand NHL games with Boston, LA and Florida and Trevor Letowski who played over 600 NHL games. Other prominent players in the league include Alexei Yashin, Jaromir Jagr and former first round NHL pick Pavel Brendl who is apparently in the running for the Cy Young award at 25-3 (25 goals and just three assists – and to think they called him a selfish player).
Russian teams in the KHL are only allowed four imports while teams in Kazakhstan and Latvia are allowed an unlimited amount.
One of the challenges for the Dallmans’ is that Kevin’s wife Stacy has a business called NookumsTM where she invented a new type of baby pacifier holder that not only helps keep the pacifier in the baby’s mouth but makes it a lot easier to find when it pops out (www.PaciPlushies.com). She is now trying to market that and expand her line of baby products but that can be a little tough when you’re living in Kazakhstan.
Dallman says he is enjoying his experience in Astana and would recommend it to others, but he isn’t sure what he’ll be doing next season.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there” he said. “I would love to stay in Kazakhstan, it’s a great city and a great team that goes out of its way to make the imports and their families comfortable, but I am not committing to anything at this point.”
Like any North American player I’m sure he’d love to come back and play in the NHL, and perhaps the stellar season he is putting together will help make that happen.