After a 2019-2020 season marked by two concussions that made him fear the worst in the Laval Rocket uniform, William Pelletier found the perfect balance in Austria, where he plays in the best professional league in the country (ICEHL ) with the Black Wings of Linz in the midst of a pandemic.
This sense of well-being contrasts with the last season, which was anything but a long quiet river for the 27-year-old forward from Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, near Quebec.
Held sidelined for the first half of the campaign with a concussion, Pelletier suffered another head injury just three games after his return on December 28. At that time, hockey was far down in his priorities.
“Mentally, I was scared of getting hit again or having a big body check. I was not the same player. The second concussion I had, I found myself in a state of mind that I had never experienced and I was still scared. I scared my wife, who had come to join me. We’ve been together for 11 years and it was the first time she’s seen me like this, “he said in a generous interview with The newspaper.
It took Pelletier over two months to recover. Through his rehabilitation process, he was invited to find his means in the ECHL, but the pandemic came to dampen his enthusiasm and he had to be content with just three other parties in the American League when the school club of the Canadian has called on his services again. A year to be forgotten all along.
“Right now, I’m in great shape. I just took the time, with COVID after the season, to rest mentally because it’s been a pretty tough year. It was good for me the little break we had […] Let’s say that if we take my last year with everything that happened and the adaptation that was necessary with the big ice here, I’m satisfied for the moment ”, maintains Pelletier, who trained during the been under the supervision of Jean-Philippe Côté, of Fast Hockey
Project and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Never drafted, William Pelletier ended up with the Chicago Blackhawks affiliate in the American League in March 2017 after winning the national title at the conclusion of his college career with Norwich University, in Division 3 of the NCAA.
After two full seasons with the Rockford IceHogs and his trying year at Laval, the native of the South Shore of Quebec chose to take an avenue that had been recommended to him for some time by signing a contract with the team from Linz, a city in north-western Austria.
“With the season I had last year and with what was going on with COVID, with the uncertainty of the next season [en Amérique du Nord], I knew it would be difficult to return to the AHL.
“Plus, it’s been a long time since I’ve been told that my style of play is more appealing to teams in Europe, with the bigger windows. Several people who lived through the experience told me that I should go. I am here with my wife who is pregnant, ”said the little 5’7” skater who claims three goals and three assists in six games.
Pelletier instantly fell under the spell of his new life.
“It’s a great experience for me and my girlfriend. We came back from a long weekend and went to Vienna [la capitale]. We have time to travel and enjoy it. The lifestyle is really amazing and I love it. After training, we walk around town, we go for a coffee. It’s a little lighter. Even on the ice, you have a certain pressure to produce as a foreigner, but there is less stress, ”he explains.
While Montreal holds the unofficial status of a hockey mecca, European fans don’t let their exuberance fool themselves when cheering on their local club. Despite the pandemic which continues to rage, Pelletier can testify to the fervor of amateurs since they are admitted inside arenas in limited numbers.
“There is a maximum of 1,500 per game and fans must wear the mask at all times. It’s the same for us [les joueurs], except when you’re on the ice. When I got to my first game, it was sold out with the maximum allowed, and with the drumming and screaming, it gave me chills right away. After the match, I would talk about it and I would be told that it looked like I had not played in front of 5000 spectators in Europe! ”
A team with a Quebec flavor
William Pelletier almost feels at home in the locker room of the Black Wings of Linz, where he forms a quartet of Quebecers with three other compatriots.
A few weeks before Pelletier officially signed up for the Austrian squad, former Drummondville Voltigeurs captain Charles-David Beaudoin did the same after three seasons on the North American minor circuits.
Pelletier and Beaudoin can count on the support of Sébastien Piché and Marc-André Dorion, two defenders who made the leap to the Old Continent several years ago.
“Before signing, I spoke with Beaudoin. I played against him for two or three years in the AHL and we really didn’t like each other on the ice! I asked him for details, and with Sébastien and Marc-André, it’s a lot easier when you’re surrounded by experienced guys, “admitted the forward.
And the French don’t just come with the four players. The Black Wings are led by Franco-Ontarian Pierre Beaulieu, who has been working his way in Europe since 2010, according to EliteProspects.
A native of Timmins, Beaulieu is in his first year as the team’s head coach after finishing the previous campaign as a driver for the Krefeld Pinguine, in the German League (DEL). He is a former custodian of Ryerson University in Toronto.
“It helps with integration and I have a really good relationship with him. He called out former players as a referral and the referrals I gave him had nothing but good feedback from me on and off the ice. And the fact that he speaks French makes it a bit easier to have conversations, ”Pelletier admitted.