DVTK Polar Bears from Miskolc joined Tipos Extraleague for the first time in the 2018-2019 season after they had suffered a final loss in Erste League. The team has finished their first season in the league with a loss in the playoffs. The following season was due to the global pandemic cut short, and the Polar Bears finished the year in 9th place. DVTK Miskolc is determined to make the playoffs again, and one of their key players is Kevin Wehrs.
This Plymouth native defenseman started his ice hockey career in USHS-MN in the season 2003-2004, and in the second season playing for Wayzata High, he got a chance to play for Cedar Rapids Roughriders in USHL. He was named to the All-Star Team and won the Clark Cup in the same season. “My time in the USHL was an incredible experience for me. It was my first experience in a professionally ran hockey environment, and really my first step in having a career in hockey. I was fortunate enough to join the team at the end of my high school season in Minnesota when I was 16 and experience the ride of winning the Clark Cup. I think at that time I took for granted how special it was to be a champion. It was an incredible experience to be around that group and see what it took to win. It is pretty cool also to see how many of those guys have gone on to have incredible careers in the NHL and elsewhere. Being named to the All-Star games both of my years in the league was truly an honor and two experiences I will never forget. I think if anything, getting that honor gave me the confidence that I could have a future playing hockey.”
After four seasons playing in NCAA Wehrs has decided that a change of scenery would be good for him and signed with Lillehammer in Norway where he spent one season and then signed with ASC Corona Brasov in Romania. “I think my two years in Romania was when I really came into my own as a hockey player and a pro. It was an incredible experience winning the first Romanian Cup for the club my first year, then going on the following year to shock the league and make it to the finals. Also coming back in game 7 of the Romanian championship to win was one of the highlights of my career. In hindsight I think these two years in Romania were a turning point of my career.” says the defenseman. Once his two seasons with ASC Corona Brasov were over, he is decided to sign with the Hungarian team Fehérvár AV19 in the Austrian EBEL league. Two seasons later he found himself signing with the Austrian team Villacher SV and then he moved to the German DEL2 league where he played for Tölzer Löwen and EV Landshut. In his first season in the German league, he was the most penalized player in the league with 128 penalty minutes. “That’s one of those years that I will probably never live down,” Wehrs says with a laugh. “I think it was a combination of my style of play not mixing well with the league, along with some frustration on my part. That will be a funny story to tell my kids someday!”
After spending such a long time in Europe and being able to play in different European leagues, one would think that it must be easier to get used to his new team and the league. “I think every time you move into a new league it’s a bit of an adjustment. Early on in my career I will say it took me a little bit to adapt to the league, but at this stage in my career it has become easier.” Tipos Extraleague is the sixth league for Kevin Wehrs in six consecutive seasons. But what does he think about the style of hockey and the level of skill that is needed to be successful in it? “I’ve been very fortunate and have been able to play in multiple leagues in Europe throughout my career. I will say, it is really hard to compare any of the leagues, but I have been very impressed with the level of hockey being played in the Tipos Extraleague. I think the speed of the game is as fast or faster than anywhere I have played, and the quality of play in the league is definitely top notch. I really enjoy this style of hockey; it fits my game well.” Ten years have passed since Kevin Wehrs played his first game in Europe after coming here from the US. In his second season with the Hungarian team Fehérvár AV19, he got an opportunity to join the Hungarian national ice hockey team and the opportunity to represent Hungary. “Playing for team Hungary was an incredible opportunity that I had my second year playing in Hungary and I couldn’t have been more excited. Playing for team Hungary has been the greatest honor I have had as a hockey player, and some of my favorite memories in my career have occurred representing Hungary. It’s something that I look forward to doing every year.” Looking back at all the success and experience that he is gained over the years; he is still shocked that he is still playing. “I always thought it would be fun to play a couple years pro after college but never knew it would turn into 10 plus years. I have to give my wife a lot of credit, without her being with me throughout this entire journey, I doubt I would be where I am today. It’s been a lot of fun; I’m enjoying every second of it.” says the friendly defenseman.
His current team is in 11th place in the rankings right now with 36 points in 40 games. The Polar Bears have had multiple losing streaks since the beginning of the season, and it seems like they can not get their head back in the game again. “I think it’s just us getting that winning mentality back as a team. The belief that we are going to win every night. We had that at the beginning of the year for a bit but lost it for a while. As long as we can get that confidence back as a group, I believe we will start winning a lot more hockey games.” Kevin Wehrs belongs to their most productive players, despite the team lacking success in the past weeks. He accumulated 26 points in 38 games, and one would think that he is pleased with his results right now, but Wehrs says that as a hockey player, you should not be truly happy with where you are at and should be looking to improve. “For me, I just have the mindset that every day I want to get better in every aspect of my game in order to help the team win.” The league’s schedule for this season was changing quite often at the beginning of the season due to the global pandemic. Multiple teams had to quarantine at the beginning of the season because of the teammates that have tested positive, and their games have been postponed. “It has definitely been a wild ride this year with the pandemic. I think, like everybody else, it has had an effect on us. I feel very fortunate with everything going on in the world to be able to be making a living playing a game I love. We always seem to find a way to keep busy, and it helps that our game schedule is busier than normal.” he says while laughing about not wanting to hear the word “quarantine” again.
You might wonder what his personal goals are for this season – and they are quite simple. “My focus now, along with my team, is to get into that 10th spot. For me that is the only thing that matters at this point. It would be great to sneak into the playoffs and hopefully make some noise. You play all year for that opportunity so; I hope we get that.”
On behalf of Timeoutsk, we would like to thank Kevin Wehrs for taking his time to do this interview with us. May all your practice and preparation meet with the best of luck.
author: Miroslava Meličková | graphic: Kristína Prievalská