Halifax Mooseheads captain Biasca a rarity in team history

Halifax Mooseheads player Attilio Biasca finds himself in a company chosen as one of the few captains from outside North America in team history.

Biasca, 19, is from Zug, Switzerland and is the 50th captain in team history. While that number may seem high, some players haven’t played the role for long.

Injuries limited Biasca to 58 games in his first two seasons with the Mooseheads.

It is off to a strong start this year. He was third on the team in scoring with 11 points heading into Saturday night’s game against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

He said he was left speechless when he was made captain.

« It was amazing, » Biasca said. « All the memories I have with the injuries and all that, it all came out. It was really, really emotional for me because to be honest, I didn’t see it coming. »

Biasca celebrates his goal during an Oct. 1, 2022 game in Halifax against the Cape Breton Eagles. (Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Mooseheads)

Biasca is classified as an import, meaning a player who comes from outside of Canada or the United States. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams are only allowed to carry two imports on their roster each season.

Biasca is not the first Swiss player to have played for the Mooseheads.

Swiss stars Timo Meier and Nico Hischier played on the Mooseheads as imports. They were both first-round picks in the NHL Draft and are enjoying successful professional careers.

Biasca knew the Mooseheads well from Meier and Hischier. When Biasca was drafted, he said they contacted him and congratulated him.

Former captains of imported players

Biasca is just the fourth import player to captain the Mooseheads. The others were Meier, Tomas Knotek and Petr Vrana.

Team coach Sylvain Favreau said entering the league is an adjustment for any player, which includes daily practices, video sessions, training regimen and academics.

But importing players also face other challenges.

« A lot of times with European players you expect instant results and sometimes you forget that it’s a change for them, not just a different hockey league, a different country, living on tickets, » he said. he declares.

Favreau said language can be a challenge, although Biasca is not – he speaks German, Czech, Italian, English and « a little » Spanish and French.

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Biasca celebrates a goal against Austria during the third period of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton on Monday August 15, 2022. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Biasca said the biggest adjustments he faced were getting used to playing on a smaller ice surface and how much more physical the game is here.

The physicality of the QMJHL was also immediately apparent to Vrana, the first importing captain in Mooseheads history. He was part of the team from 2002 to 2005

Vrana, originally from the Czech Republic, came to Halifax at age 17. He remembers the size of some of his teammates and how some of them started fighting in the first scrum.

« I was in shock, you know, I didn’t know what was going on, » he said.

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Halifax Mooseheads captain Petr Vrana, right, checks Sidney Crosby of the Rimouski Oceanic during a game in Halifax December 6, 2004. Vrana was the team’s first European captain. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Vrana, whose long professional career has taken him to the NHL, KHL and at home in the Czech Republic, said he spoke limited English when he arrived.

« It wasn’t easy, but you learn, » he said. « You really have no other choice. »

He said he thinks it’s easier for today’s imported players to adapt. He said he thought younger players had better language skills.

Also, with social media and modern technology, it is easier to keep in touch with people back home. Vrana said that communication in his day was mostly via landlines, as cellphones were not as common as they are today.

Vrana, shown during an October 29, 2008 game, celebrates the goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vrana’s long professional career has included stints in the NHL, KHL and the Czech Republic, where he plays today. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Favreau said in looking for this year’s captain, coaches and management are looking to see who the team’s natural leaders are – senior players who take younger players under their wing on and off the ice to show what is expected of them.

Favreau said these factors, along with Biasca’s maturity, social nature and resilience to overcome injuries, are why he was named team captain.

Biasca said he was up to the task.

« I want to lead by example on the ice, » he said. « I want to be a great player this year. I want to take responsibility for winning games and I know I can do that. »

The team got off to a good start and was in first place in the Maritime Division heading into Saturday’s game.

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Swiss hockey stars Timo Meier, left, and Nico Hischier are also former Halifax Mooseheads. (Darren Yamashita/AP Photo/Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Biasca will play a key role in the team’s success this year.

Twenty years ago it was Vrana. He helped the team to the league finals in 2002-03 and finished fourth on the team in scoring with 83 points.

Today Vrana plays for Trinec Ocelari HC in the top Czech league. Sidelined with a wrist injury, the 37-year-old said he was nearing the end of his professional career, giving him additional perspective on what it was like to be. captain for 120 games, starting in the 2003-04 season.

« It’s the little things that make you happy and make you think, ‘OK, it was worth it. You know, it was worth the trip to get there,' » he said.

When asked what advice he would give Biasca, Vrana replied, « Just go out there and enjoy the game, enjoy your time there because the years go by. »

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