Garrett Milan's summer wasn't an overly relaxing one as he looked to sort out his landing spot for the 2017-18 season.
After spending the last two seasons playing with teams in Hungary and Scotland, the 26-year-old left winger was investigating options in the U.K. and Italy before they fell through, leaving him in a bit of a scramble.
Though Milan had reached out to teams in the ECHL, which is two levels below the NHL, their rosters were pretty much set. However, he received a call from Pensacola Ice Flyers head coach Jeff Bes inviting him to Florida to play in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
"I thought I had a couple deals in place over in Europe that fell through at the last second there, which was too bad," he said. "I was talking to a couple teams in the (Elite Ice Hockey League) and there was a connection with a coach in Italy, which I thought was going to pan out a little more than it did. I thought I had a deal with them going into the summer, but that fell through as well. It was kind of a bummer because I was waiting on that deal and not taking other deals that I may have had in the U.K."
Pensacola has captured three President's Cups in the past five seasons, and Milan hopes to step into a solid squad primed to rise to the top once again. In their first game of the season, the Ice Flyers blanked the defending champion Macon Mayhem 4-0 with Milan chipping in an assist.
"Jeff wants me to be an offensive guy and score goals and be one of the top players for the team. So far, he's given me the opportunity. I've been on the power play and the penalty kill and on one of the top two lines," he said.
Coach Bes was excited to land Milan and feels he'll be a solid addition to the team.
"Garrett is a player that is highly competitive and tough to play against," Bes told the team's website when Milan signed in September. "He is very deceptive and uses speed to his advantage."
Milan attended the Atlanta Gladiators camp and thought he had a good chance of making that team until they received an influx of American Hockey League cuts. If the injury bug bites them, though, he may earn himself a call-up through his play in Pensacola.
But even if that doesn't happen, he feels he'll have an enjoyable season in Florida as he's in a trusted role with the Ice Flyers and already becoming involved in the community, noting he had just returned from serving meals at a soup kitchen with the team before the interview.
"It's good to get back in that role in the community," he said. "In North America, a lot of clubs want to make connections with families.
"You don't see it as much in Europe."
And, his digs are pretty good, too, as he says the team's apartments are the "best in the league," just a stone's throw from the ocean and not far from the local links, either.
"You're wearing shorts and a T-shirt to the rink and it's 30-degree weather down here," he said. "It's a pretty cool change being down here and going to the beach after practice, or going golfing."