First Nations player to suit up for pro hockey club in Scotland

Wednesday, July 12th, 2023 9:41am


Image Caption

Troy Lajeunesse has signed with the Fife Flyers of the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League.


“Growing up the dream was obviously to play in the NHL. As I got older, my parents and I were talking, and we were thinking Europe would be a better place for me to play.” — Troy Lajeunesse
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Had he waited a bit longer Troy Lajeunesse most certainly would have been able to sign a contract for his first full season of pro hockey with a North American franchise.

But Lajeunesse, a member of Dokis First Nation in northern Ontario, will instead be taking his talents overseas.

It was announced on July 8 that the 26-year-old has inked a deal to play for the Fife Flyers, who compete in the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL).

The Flyers are one of three teams based in Scotland that participate in the EIHL. The two other Scottish entrants are the Dundee Stars and the Glasgow Clan.

The Belfast Giants are the only squad in the league based in Northern Ireland while the Cardiff Wales are the lone reps from Wales.

The other five EIHL franchises are from England. They are Coventry Blaze, Guildford Flames, Manchester Storm, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers.

Lajeunesse, who is coming off a stellar career with the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) Panthers, had a handful of options to consider heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

On this side of the pond franchises in the ECHL and the American Hockey League had expressed interest in his services. But Lajeunesse opted to accept an offer from Fife.

“It’s nice to get it done and learn where I’m going to be,” he said. “Now I can enjoy my summer.”

Lajeunesse said he will make more money with the Flyers than he would have made with a North American minor pro franchise. And teams in Europe traditionally play fewer games each season.

Plus, the Fife organization is providing him with a place to stay and the use of a car. His long-time girlfriend Georgia Stone will be moving to Scotland with him.

The Flyers, who were established in 1938, are the oldest pro hockey club in the U.K.

Lajeunesse, a 5-foot-9 forward who weighs 168 pounds, is no doubt better suited to play pro hockey in Europe, where the game has more of a focus on skating, skills and creativity as opposed to North America where many squads concentrate on a more physical approach.

“Growing up the dream was obviously to play in the NHL,” Lajeunesse said. “As I got older, my parents and I were talking, and we were thinking Europe would be a better place for me to play. It was always in my mind, after my second or third year of junior.”

Lajeunesse had suited up for three different Ontario Hockey League (OHL) clubs – Sarnia Sting, Sudbury Wolves and Erie Otters – from 2014 to 2018.

Though he is not friends with any of the other players currently on the Flyers’ roster, Lajeunesse said he played against some of them during his junior career.

Following his final OHL season, Lajeunesse joined UPEI in 2018.

He led the Panthers in goal-scoring this past season, netting 15 goals in 24 regular season matches. He added 13 assists to finish with 28 points, a mere point behind the team leader.

Lajeunesse added seven points, including three goals, in three playoff matches.

After his Panthers’ season was finished, Lajeunesse got his first taste of pro hockey as he signed with the ECHL’s Savannah Ghost Pirates.

He played 10 games with the Georgia-based Ghost Pirates and scored two goals and added six assists.

Flyers’ head coach Tom Coolen is pleased Lajeunesse has agreed to head overseas now and join his squad.

“I have only received positive endorsements from the many coaches I have spoken to regarding Troy,” Coolen said. “He is a determined player and excellent skater, coming off an outstanding season in a very competitive league.”

Besides being one of the Panthers’ top offensive weapons last season Lajeunesse was named to the Atlantic University Sport all-star team and was also chosen as the league’s most valuable player.

Lajeunesse and Stone are expected to move to Scotland in late August so he can prepare for the Flyers’ upcoming season.

Though he has yet to play an EIHL contest, Lajeunesse is hoping he’ll be able to spend numerous years overseas.

“Not to think too far ahead,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be opposed to making a career in Europe.”

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.