Sporting her Trail Minor Hockey hoodie, Erin McLean is in Vipiteno, Italy starting a new adventure with her team the Aisulu Almaty of the European Women’s Hockey League.

Trail woman fulfills dream, embarks on pro hockey career in Europe

Trail product Erin McLean takes to the ice with Kazakhstan national team, the mighty Aisulu Almaty

Greater Trail hockey player Erin McLean may have taken the road less travelled, but she is making a living at playing the game she loves.

The former Kootenay Wildcat defenceman signed a contract to play professional hockey with Team Kazakhstan, also known as the Aisulu Almaty of the European Women’s Elite Hockey League earlier this year.

“Playing professional hockey is a dream come true, and there’s days when I think I should be paying them for allowing me to be here,” McLean told the Times from a stop in Vipeteno, Italy. “I grew up playing with the Wildcats in the West Kootenay and was lucky enough to have a father (Grant), who was passionate about progressing the female game.”

The 10 team league includes representatives from eight different countries including Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Italy, Poland and Germany.

McLean played her minor hockey in Trail and for the Midget AAA Wildcats where she was recruited by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). At SAIT, she earned Rookie of the Year honour in her first year, was named assistant captain in her second, and MVP in her third year. She transferred to Mount Royal University in Calgary to finish her last two years of eligibility playing University or ‘USports’ hockey.

Related read: McLean earns MVP honours at SAIT

The 24-year-old is part of a group of 1995 born hockey players that are set to embark on their professional careers. McLean grew up with former Trail Smoke Eaters Jake Lucchini, Scott Davidson, and Craig Martin. Lucchini is set to play in the American Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Penguins affiliate, and Quinnipiac grads Davidson and Martin signed contracts with South Carolina Stingrays and the Adirondack Thunder, respectively, in the ECHL.

Erin’s time playing at her sister Chelsea’s alma mater also paved the way to the EWHL. She toured with the Almaty team in February for a month before returning home, then was invited back for another tour in April. A spiral fracture of her left tibia postponed her return to Kazakhstan, but the Trail product made an impression, and the Almaty wanted her back.

“Before breaking my leg, I thought I would continue to travel back and forth, but my injury really made me realize the fragility of being an athlete. It’s not something me or my body can do forever … ultimately Aisulu Almaty offered me a salary to move to Kazakhstan full time and I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Each EWHL team is allowed four North American skaters, yet, McLean and two other Canadian players decided to relocate to Kazakhstan and apply for dual citizenship. The move will free up spots for the Almaty to sign more North American players as well as make McLean a Kazakh citizen and therefore eligible to compete in I.I.H.F. sanctioned events and in the Olympic qualifier next December.

The Almaty is also the Kazakh National Team and supplemented by the government, yet, the team is also affected by the shifting politics of the times and recently endured a budget cut.

Despite the many challenges and detractors, players with the skill and dedication of McLean can only help grow the game and guide it to the next level.

“I still remember being the young girl who was asked if my hockey jacket was my boyfriend’s, and academic advisors telling me I couldn’t be a professional female hockey player ‘because one day I’d get sick of eating pasta’.”

McLean doesn’t mind eating pasta, especially in Italy, where the team has been for the last week playing EWHL regular season games. She plans to make her home in Kazakhstan, continue to improve her game, and, eventually, fulfill another dream of playing hockey in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“From a young age I always dreamed of a being an athlete, but could not have imagined the crazy windy path it has been to get here.

“I could not be more proud of our ‘95 class, and it is so crazy to think those kids wobbling around the kids’ rink at the Cominco Arena are getting paid to play in rinks across the world,” added McLean. “We truly owe it to our community, as Trail has an amazing way of supporting athletic aspirations. I hope we can inspire the next generation of athletes to stick with their sport, and to see the unfathomable opportunities the game has to offer.”

Aisulu kicked off the 2019-20 season with the ‘Super Cup’ tournament in Germany earlier this month, and continues on to Denmark for games against Hvidovre Ishockey Klub.



sports@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Erin McLean

Just Posted

Morning Start: 180 different bird species exist in Kootenay National Park

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Friday, May 29

Powerful thunderstorms called for the West Kootenay this weekend

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Thursday afternoon.

Trail starts water conservation Monday

Restrictions part of municipal commitment to lower water demand

Horoscopes for the week of May 26

Weekly horoscopes by Morgan Fava

COVID-19: Business Check-In

The application process for certain programs has not been smooth.

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

B.C. woman launches First Nations search, rescue and patrol program

Linda Peters envisions trained searchers ready to go at moment’s notice in each B.C. First Nation

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

B.C. teacher reprimanded for sharing homophobic and sexist memes, making racist comments

Klaus Hardy Breslauer was accused of making a laundry list of concerning decisions as a science teacher

Most Read