It's not in North America, but Gilbert Plains Colby Robak is back playing the game he loves at the professional level.
He signed a contract with Vaasan Sport last Thursday. They play in the Finnish Liiga.
"It felt good to sign the contract for sure," said Robak. "I've heard a lot of good things about Finland as far as a hockey standpoint goes, but also just living in general. It was an easy decision for my family and I to decide to come over here."
Just like last season, Colby didn't begin the season with a contract. But, not having one wasn't something he was worried about.
"I've been through it before and things open up all the time," said Robak. "Whether that's in North America or Europe. I knew it was just a matter of time, and kind of where and when. As I said, I've been through it before and I was just kind of waiting."
After signing his contract, Colby didn't have much time to pack up his bags before him and his family boarded a plane for Vaasa. Quickly after arriving in town, Robak played his first games with the team this past weekend. Robak and the rest of the squad lost both games, but for Colby, it was just about getting used to the league.
"You know what, I never thought it would be as different as it is," said Robak. "I got here a little jetlagged and went on the road the next day and played that night. It's definitely different playing on the bigger ice surface. There's a lot more room out there and you need to skate a lot more. But, that's what we pay the trainers the big bucks in the summertime for."
"I think the key to having success out here is realizing how much more space there is out there," said Robak. "It's a little quicker in North America, but out here there's a lot more trapping and just sort of waiting. My biggest adjustment right now is just learning the European game."
Robak is now in his ninth season as a professional hockey player. The first eight were between the American Hockey League and National Hockey League. Despite playing so much in NA, Robak had a feeling playing in Europe could eventually happen.
"I think it's something that every pro hockey player sort of thinks about," said Robak. "It's one of the perks of the game. You get to travel the world and do what you love doing. We also have another baby on the way, so that's pretty exciting for us. It's been a really neat experience so far, and we're excited about our future here for as long as it lasts."
As he learns the European style of hockey, Robak is fully confident in himself that he can have success out in Finland as the team looks to win a Championship.
"Absolutely I think that I can have success out here," said Robak. "I feel like I'm getting more comfortable with the type of player I am as I get older. Being a big guy that can skate, I feel I can use that to my advantage out here. We'll see how it goes, but I'm feeling good."
As of today, Robak and the rest of the team are in 10th place in the league with a 3-4 record. Despite that slow start, the veteran defencemen knows it's early in the season and there is a lot of time to turn things around.
"I mean I still think that we're doing a pretty good job overall," added Robak. "It's early in the year here and I'm just trying to get settled here. I think it's going to be a pretty good season honestly."
Of course, living in Europe, there is also a life outside of hockey, and what a life it can be. Throughout the season, the Robak's plan on making the most of living in Europe by doing some travelling and enjoying life to the fullest.
"Something that's big over here is you get a lot of breaks," said Robak. "We don't play a game from November 4-14. The family and I are seeing where we can maybe go to during that time. Because once you're over here, it's pretty cheap and short to just hop on a plane and go to Berlin or Paris for example."
"Getting the chance to experience so much is definitely another perk of playing over here," he added.
So for now, Robak will continue to grind it out in Finland as he looks to make a big difference on the team. But, he knows North America is the place to ultimately be.
"I mean obviously I think the ultimate goal is to get back in the NHL," said Robak. "But I mean, we're just enjoying the ride right now. I won't ever take for granted the fact that I get to play pro hockey here in Europe and experience so many new things."
Robak and the team are back on the ice on Wednesday.