My husband and I always knew that ending up in Denmark was a possibility. After nearly a decade of living and working in Germany, Switzerland and Russia, we were open to wherever his hockey career might take us next. But when an injury abruptly forced him out of the game for good last season, it seemed our expat journey might come to an end.
That was until Brandon was offered an opportunity to take on a new role within the ice hockey world, that of head coach and director of player development for the Division 1 and Under-20 teams of the Vojens ice hockey club in southern Denmark.
Sitting down for The Local (with my wife cap off, journalist cap on), I asked Brandon to share his thoughts on professional life here in Denmark.
Vojens Ishockey Klub is part of the SønderjyskE organization, one of the most successful teams in the Danish elite Metal Ligaen. What is it like coming into such a well-established club as a newcomer to the job, the team and the country?
Coming into an organization that is run so professionally was an easy adjustment, especially after working with many other European hockey clubs as a player. Everything was set up nicely for me and I’ve had a lot of help. The organization made me feel comfortable, which I’ve learned is typical of Danish people: making others feel welcome.
Tell us about your job. How does being the coach differ from being a player?
As a coach, I no longer have to just focus on one job, I have 21 or so players that have 21 different needs, 21 different characters, and I have to find the perfect balance to mold it all together. Being a coach takes much more work. Before and after training, I don’t just get to relax at home anymore. That’s when a coach is doing most of the work.
What is it like working with Danish players?
It has been quite easy; everyone speaks English. And because of the success I have had in my own career as a player, it helps, especially with the younger kids, to get them to believe in what I’m trying to teach. Danish ice hockey is getting so much bigger, the level is getting higher, and nowadays, maybe more than say ten years ago, these kids have that dream in the back of their heads, to make it to the NHL, and that makes my job that much more fun and easy.
After growing up in Montreal and living in larger European cities like Dusseldorf, Hamburg, and Moscow, what has it been like adjusting to life in Vojens, a small town of 8,000 people?
It’s been the ideal place to start my new coaching career. Living in Vojens, where so much of the culture and community revolves around hockey, it has helped me put all my focus, all my time and effort into coaching, learning everything I can and trying to become the best.
What’s the best thing about living and working in Denmark?
The best part is really just how easy it is to live here. With so much English, and such friendly people, it’s been the easiest place to be an expat.
How long do you plan to stay in Denmark?
As of now, it’s for the one hockey season, until about April. My focus is really on reaching our teams’ goals, winning two championships with the U20 team and the Division 1 team, and then we’ll see what happens. That’s hockey.
Jessica Scott-Reid is a freelance journalist, originally from Winnipeg, Canada. In addition to her weekly column for young professionals on Notable.ca, her work has also appeared in the Montreal Gazette, The Hockey News, and The Winnipeg Free Press. You can read more about her past expat experiences at German-Way.com, and find her on Twitter @JessLReid.