Filip Koffer knows he may have a leg up on the rest of his teammates. While most Cougars practice and train in their hometowns, Koffer is currently playing in the Czech Republic for HC Stadion Litomerice in the Czech 2 Liga, a third-tier professional league.
The 19-year-old is off to a good start too, as he sits fifth in team scoring with three points (1g, 2a) in five games.
“I’m happy I have the opportunity to actually play games here in the Czech Republic,” said Koffer via a Zoom call. “The team I’m playing with in the pro league here is only two hours from my hometown, so it’s kind of close which is nice. I’m getting a lot if ice time, I’m very fortunate.”
The Czech Republic has seen a second wave of COVID-19 cases, much like Canada but Koffer says he’s fortunate to be playing the game he loves. “I know in Canada guys can’t play right now and I’m lucky that I can, and I think it’s the best way to get better, is playing against other teams and not just practicing, skating alone. It’s a great experience for me, especially playing against older, stronger players.”
How does playing in the Czech Republic compare to playing in the WHL? He says there are some noticeable differences, “The WHL is very different from the league I’m in now. The oldest player on my team is 39. Hockey over here is not as fast, you have more time with the puck and more time to make decisions because of the bigger ice. In Canada, everything is faster. It’s good, it’s pro hockey but something different than junior for sure.”
After putting up 24 points (5g, 19a) in 59 games in his rookie season with the Cougars, Koffer says he spent this off-season on improving his strength, “I wanted to get faster, stronger for this season. I just told myself every day I can get better, on and off the ice. I am smaller guy, so I focused on getting stronger in my lower body. I changed my workouts too, this off-season I have been doing more body weight exercises focused on speed rather than heavy weightlifting.”
The Cougars hope Koffer’s experience overseas will pay dividends in his sophomore season, as the WHL is slated to start on December 4th.