Sam Duggan left the UK in 2014 to play junior hockey in Sweden. Last month he was picked up by the Cardiff Devils and began his first season in professional hockey. We caught up with him to see how it’s going since the move.
The first question on a lot of people’s mind then, and perhaps still, is why return now, and why Cardiff? “I think it was a decision that was mainly because I thought that this would be where I would be best developing,” explained the 20-year old. “I really liked the talks with Andrew Lord, he has some really great ideas for what he wants to be doing to develop my game, and that really excited me. So that was probably the main pull. And also I’m going to be able to get my schooling here at Cardiff Met (University), so I’ll be able to develop playing in a good organisation and get my education as well.”
“You know you’re playing against men”
Duggan left the UK at a young age, but feels he’s more mature for the experience of being abroad. “Having to learn to live by yourself – cooking and cleaning – was a big learning curve for me. But I think I adjusted to it well, I really enjoyed that aspect of having to look after your body and not have mum or dad there to help you with that,” he added. “You definitely mature and grow up a lot quicker than if you’re in your comfort zone, and I would definitely recommend it to any young player thinking of doing that. It’s a great option, I loved my time in Sweden, and really developed both as a player and as a person.”
Being back in the UK, there are obvious differences to the game. “The junior game in Sweden is very ‘go go go’. It’s a high-speed game with guys flying all over the place, whereas in the professional game is much more structured and you have to be thinking a lot more out there – but not too much, otherwise you’ll get caught,” said the forward, who played junior hockey in Bracknell before going abroad. “You have to control your skating, maybe go a bit slower to be in the right lane sometimes. It’s also my first experience of professional hockey, and there’s the strength of the other guys on the ice. You know now you’re playing against men when you go into the corners, or along the boards.”
He continued: “Being in a hockey country like Sweden, you learn how to do things quick on the ice. If you don’t do that in their style of game, you don’t stick around very long. That was the main thing for me, with my decisions on the puck and skating speed, I had to do it quick.”And finally, how is he finding the experience of playing in Cardiff? “It’s been a really good start for me. The boys have welcomed me from the off, it’s helped me settle in. I’ve been here a week and a half now, starting to get settled in with the systems we’re playing and the speed of the game and everything. I’m feeling more comfortable as every day goes, but there’s still a lot to work on” Duggan concluded.