Since graduating from St. Cloud State University in 2015, Garrett Milan has been on a bit of a world tour: Hungary, Scotland, Florida, Georgia and now, Germany.
The 27-year-old Whistlerite landed with the EV Lindau Islanders, a squad in the German third-division Oberliga in August. He spent last season with the Southern Professional Hockey League's Pensacola Ice Flyers in addition to a three-game call-up stint with the ECHL's Atlanta Gladiators.
Milan has been off to a hot start this season, posting a team-leading four goals and adding four assists in 11 games so far. He has already made himself a fan favourite in the process, winning an online vote as the team's player of the month for September.
While Milan would be driven to succeed regardless, like many European leagues, the Oberliga allows only two imported players per team, meaning his employment situation is tenuous if he doesn't perform.
"If you're brought over as an import, you have to put up numbers here," he said. "They want you to be one of the top guys on the team, and you have to embrace that role.
"Obviously, some games aren't going to go your way, but I definitely strive to be that type of player to help offensively."This past offseason, Milan was speaking with an agent and trying to determine whether he would look to stay in North America or return to Europe, ultimately figuring Germany would have the most opportunities. One of his former Pensacola teammates, Anthony Calabrese, had already signed with Lindau and passed along the message that new head coach Chris Stanley—a 1997 Vancouver Canucks draft pick—was interested in acquiring another forward for the coming season.
"I liked what he had to say about the organization and the community and what he wanted to do with the season. It just kind of fell in my lap from there," Milan said, adding that his head coach with Pensacola, Jeff Bes, competed in Germany during his playing career and put in a good word with Lindau's brass.
As well, the Islanders were coming off a rough 2017-18 in which they won just 14 of 32 games and were looking to bring in some new personnel.
While Lindau has won just three games to start the season, Milan explained that the team's first five games were against the five best teams from last season, and the Islanders held their own by winning two of the five.
"We had a very, very tough start to the season scheduling-wise," he said. "We got out of there with a decent record, to be honest, and a couple of the losses we've had have been close where we just had a couple spans where we didn't play well.
"We don't want to be too negative to start. I think we're right there. It's just a six- or seven-minute span that's costing us each game, so if we clean that up, we'll be fine."
Milan started the season with Andreas Farny, but has been playing more recently with Filip Stopinski.
"We both add speed to our line," Milan said.
As for Lindau itself, Milan has been enjoying the community of about 25,000 located in southern Germany near the Austrian border.
"We're 10 minutes from Austria and 20 minutes from Switzerland so it's definitely a very nice part of the country," he said. "You can see the Swiss Alps from our side of the lake."
Milan added he hopes to hit the slopes at some point during the season.
The Lindau community, Milan said, has embraced the Islanders even with some recent struggles, and though they have one of the smaller arenas in the league, it's one of the louder ones as well.
"Our fans are definitely loud and it's a cool spot to be, for sure," he said.