Former Ook men’s hockey player, Nick Leyer, has signed his first professional contract for Kalix HC of HockeyEttan. Kalix is located in Sweden–it’s the team located the closest to Finland. HockeyEttan is built into four geographically split groups and serves as the third tier of Swedish professional hockey.
Leyer is the only Canadian on his team and one of three players who aren’t Swedes, but this isn’t the first time Leyer took his talents outside his home country of Canada. During the COVID-ridden season of 2020-2021, he moved south to play for the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League in Wisconsin. He’s adjusting to the difference in leagues well, saying “I believe anytime you change teams or leagues there’s always an adjustment period … My role hasn’t changed much but you have to continue to prove yourself and play well every game.”
Leyer is a St. Albert native, so he flew far away from his nest to play in this highly competitive Swedish league. ”[Kalix] is smaller than what I’m used to, coming from a big city like St. Albert or Edmonton…you only have 4 hours or so of sunlight in the winter time being so far up north,” said Leyer. ”
Despite his success, Leyer had a rough start in the hockey business. He started playing hockey at a young age, and the memories aren’t all positive. ”I remember crying the entire time … so I wouldn’t say it was the greatest start for a young lad like me.”
But as he’s grown up, Leyer’s feelings towards the sport have changed. “The reason I play the game of hockey is the friendships you make along the way,” he explained.
“I have been fortunate to win some pretty big championships with some amazing teams and teammates that I will have relationships with for the rest of my life.”
Some of those relationships have come from his lengthy career, playing for teams in both Edmonton and St. Albert. Leyer also laced up for the Spruce Grove Saints from 2016 to 2021 and played orward for the NAIT Ooks from 2021 to 2023, contributing to their2022 ACAC championship run.
Leyer seems to have found a good fit on Kalix HC, starting off on the right foot with three assists in five games. He’s used to being a powerhouse; during his time at NAIT, he racked up 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points. But he was also willing to punch his ticket to the box to create momentum for the team. Leyer spent a total of 94 penalty minutes over 25 games with the Ooks.
Overall, Leyer’s enjoying the transition. “I am valued here and that is what matters the most in my opinion.”
For Ooks looking to follow in his footsteps, Leyer encourages players to ensure they are prepared before making an international move. “Make sure you have everything in place before you head to your destination … It’s not easy to make a choice and move to a different country halfway across the world,” said Leyer.
“You’ll have to do things on your own for the first time, so I would say being prepared is the biggest thing. Know in your heart that this is something you want to do!”
Despite his struggles, Leyer said hockey will always be a part of his life. “I believe that I will always be involved in hockey, some way, somehow.”