During the lockout, a lot of players took to other teams to keep their hockey skills sharp. Some were sent to AHL affiliates, while others signed with ECHL teams. The majority of them went overseas to Europe, playing in various leagues. But Johnny Oduya didn’t do that.
The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman didn’t exactly have hockey in mind when he went on vacation in Thailand, which happens to be a popular vacation spot for those living in Sweden. He only expected to stay for a week, but he got curious and looked for any place to skate in Bangkok during his time there. He was surprised to find a team called the Flying Farangs, made up of expatriates from across the world. He ended up staying a month, playing with the team and getting ice time to himself for training.
Thailand may seem like the last place for hockey, but you’d be surprised where it’s played. There are rinks in five different African countries, for example, and an entire league in South Africa. There’s even a rink in Kenya, the birthplace of Oduya’s father.
But the time spent skating in Thailand wasn’t for fun or an exotic thrill. Oduya worked on his games while he was there, and he knows that will translate on the ice. Since being traded to the Blackhawks at the end of February last year, he’s tallied one goal and six assists in 21 games, and he’s finding a good niche with Niklas Hjalmarsson as the Blackhawks’ second defensive pair. In the three games played so far this season, he’s already earned two assists.
Like others who played in the international leagues, Oduya could very well benefit from the overseas training and prove that it’s not where you play hockey, but how you make the most of your time on the ice that counts. Of course, I’ll be severely disappointed if his teammates don’t serenade him with “One Night In Bangkok” at least once this season.