How quickly can things change during these times of the coronavirus? Just ask Nick Wolff.
A week ago, Wolff, whose senior season as a Minnesota Duluth defenseman and captain ended abruptly in March because of the global pandemic, was training in his hometown of Eagan, waiting to hear when the 2020-21 NHL and AHL seasons will begin. Wolff signed a free-agent contract with the Boston Bruins organization shortly after the college season and is expected to join the club in training camp.
Come Sunday, though, Wolff has another destination. He’ll be flying Hungary to play some hockey.
“My old coach in [USHL] Des Moines [Dave Allison] is now a head coach in a Slovakian league,’’ Wolff said. “I got the call last week, and he asked if I wanted to go to play for a couple months overseas. I said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll go.’ ’’
Wolff will be playing for the DVTK Polar Bears in Miskolc, a city of about 160,000 in northeastern Hungary. The Polar Bears are the lone Hungarian team in the Tipos Extrliga, the top league in Slovakia.
“Turns out, it’s a pretty good opportunity,’’ Wolf said. “It’s a cool thing to experience – traveling a little bit and seeing the world.’’
The prime motivation for Wolff, however, is getting a chance to play. He’s a 6-5, 230-pound physical blue-liner – his hit on Massachusetts Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar in the 2019 NCAA final is the stuff of Bulldogs legend – but last threw a check in anger on March 7, when Minnesota Duluth beat St. Cloud State 6-1 to complete a sweep of their season-ending NCHC series. The Bulldogs were about to embark on the defense of their back-to-back NCAA championships with a home playoff series against Miami (Ohio) before sports were shut down on March 12.
Wolff has been training at Mash Performance in Eagan, along with high school teammate Tommy Muck, who finished his senior season at Bemidji State and is preparing for the season with the Kansas City Mavericks of the ECHL.
Also in the workout group is Darin Olver, the former Eastview High School and Northern Michigan standout who’s played in the Deutsch Elite League since 2008. “He’s kind of our Dad in the weight room,’’ Wolff joked.
The opportunity to compete will break the monotony of dry-land training.
“Having no end date to the summer is strange,’’ Wolff said. “It kind of just drags along. I was at first on the edge about going to Slovakia, but the more I thought about it, it was perfect opportunity to get out of here and get the season going again. I’ll at least get some competitive play under my belt.’’
With the AHL and NHL season starts uncertain, Wolff wanted to get an edge when he returns to whatever type of training camp the Bruins hold. He participated in the Bruins’ prospect camps in 2018 and ’19, and now is aiming to take the next step with the team.
“Hopefully, I can prove myself and get an opportunity,’’ Wolff said.