Long-time hockey player and Outlook native Andrew Sarauer is living proof that one’s dreams of lacing up the skates to go pro can be achieved, and in his case, you can see quite a bit of the world while you’re at it.
The 36-year old left wing plays for the Fehérvár AV19, a Hungarian team that competes alongside ten other squads in the International Central European hockey league, also known simply as ICE.
Sarauer has carved himself out an interesting career on the ice, playing for a number of teams that have definitely racked up his travel points, but the experience that has come from such a career is not something to overlook. Before taking to rinks on the international side of the world, Andrew played in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Lake Erie Monsters, Norfolk Admirals, Rockford IceHogs and Hershey Bears, as well as the ECHL (formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League) for the Johnstown Chiefs, Reading Royals and Las Vegas Wranglers.
But before lacing up the skates on a professional level, he started right here at home in Outlook, which he remembers fondly.
“I started playing from around 4 years old and played most of my minor hockey in Outlook until my 2nd year of midget, when I moved away from home,” said Andrew, sharing correspondence with this reporter. “It was such a great place to play growing up with lots of ice time and great coaches along the way. I remember the best times with your friends being rink rats and playing shinny all day!”
Though Sarauer had dreams of going pro in the NHL like every other hockey-obsessed kid, things took a different path for him and he pursued the sport on another side of the world.
“I always wanted to play in the NHL and play hockey for a living from a young age,” he said. “Once I finished college, I started playing professionally in the ECHL for a few years. After realizing the dream of the NHL probably isn’t going to happen, that’s when I started to look at options in Europe and fell in love with the game and lifestyle over there.”
Having played hockey for as long as he has, Andrew has enjoyed more than a few special moments in his career. It was when he was about to begin playing on the other side of the world that he saw the sport in a whole new light.
“Probably in April 2015,” he said, when asked about the biggest moments he’s had on the ice. “I just received Hungarian citizenship and we earned promotion at the World Championship D1A in Krakow, Poland. I had never played internationally before, so this was a whole new experience. Playing for a country, you really feel the passion and energy from everyone. This was only the 2nd time in 70 years they earned promotion to the A pool, so it was quite the party.”
Regardless of how lengthy Sarauer’s career his been, he still finds the fun in hockey and enjoys what he does for a living, learning not to take anything for granted along the way.
“After 13 years pro, I still genuinely enjoy the daily routine of being a hockey player,” said Andrew. “The training, the preparation, practices, games. The older you get, you really start to appreciate the little things around the game. The people you meet, friendships, memories, etc., you can’t beat it. Hockey has given me the chance to play a game for a living, travel the world, and meet a lot of great people along the way.”
Despite the challenges that come with a professional hockey career, Sarauer has learned that as long as one puts in the work, then you should have no regrets in the end despite what the outcome may be.
“You’re always going to face challenges along the way,” he said. “Coaches, teammates, injuries, losing streaks, etc. I really believe that in hockey or anything, that if you’re not fully invested, don’t put in the work and do things the right way, then you will end up on the wrong side.”
Knowing there may be younger hockey players reading this article, Sarauer says it’s important that players always love the game and everything that goes along with it if they hope to one day have an opportunity to play pro.
“Well, I know it’s cliché, but most importantly have fun and work hard,” he said. “Listen to your coaches. Be a good teammate. If you don’t truly enjoy going to the rink for practice or games, then you won’t succeed at it. Things don’t always go as planned, but believe in yourself and enjoy the game.”
Judging by all the mainstream press coverage, it paints a picture that more than ever these days, hockey is a young man’s sport. It’s bizarre to think that someone who happens to be over the age of 35 may be looking at ending his career sometime within the next decade, but that’s just what the sport carries and takes out of you physically. For now though, Andrew’s still having fun and looking forward to more time spent on the ice.
“I don’t know when the end will come,” said Sarauer. “I’ve never really thought about ending yet. I know I’m on the ‘back 9’ but I still feel healthy and have a great relationship with my club. We just agreed to a contract for next season, so I will be going back for my 8th season with them.”