FEATURE: Have Pads, Will Travel - Dainton Embraces Life Overseas
Jan. 17, 2014
For goaltender Paul Dainton, hockey has brought him across numerous cities and continents, the most recent being Milan, Italy. Finishing his collegiate years with the UMass Minutemen in 2011, Dainton started his professional career with the Springfield Falcons just down the road from his college in Western Massachusetts. Looking for the next step in his career, the 27-year-old toyed with the idea of playing overseas. The opportunity arose when he was put in touch with his current team, Milano Rossoblu, and after that it was a matter of making sure the timing was right to make the jump.
"I always wanted to play hockey overseas, but I didn't know when the opportunity would come or when it would best fit my career," said Dainton.
After spending the majority of last summer mulling the thought over, he decided it was going to be the best match for his first year playing internationally. The Bradford, Ontario, native spent his summer months in Portsmouth, N.H., living with two former University of New Hampshire hockey players. One of those roommates, Jamie Fritsch, had signed just one month before with Milano. Before initial contact that Head Coach Adolf Insam had with Dainton, he was unaware that Fritsch and his future goaltender were living together. By the end of the summer the two were boarding a plane facing their new team together.
Anxious to start a new chapter in his life, Dainton found himself being welcomed with open arms by the Milano faithful. "They go out of their way to make you feel at home as possible," explained Dainton, who has already played in 28 games, posting a 3.58 goals against average with a .907 save percentage. Quickly becoming a fan favorite came easy for the lighthearted starter. Not everyone was a stranger to Paul, as he quickly found out that there were guys he had played against back in the States, including in the NCAA.
The only way Dainton could think to explain the fans and their uncanny antics, specifically for people familiar with UMass, was to picture the UMass student section, combined with European soccer fans. With no music in the arenas, fans take part in non-stop orchestrated chants the entire game, drums included. "It is hands down the loudest atmosphere I have ever played in," Dainton raved.
Naturally, there were going to be differences and adjustments from the style of play in North America. "North American hockey is more of a systems game with puck possession," Dainton described. "Over here, it's a bit more wide open. It's tough to compare them because they are so different, but it's been a good experience to play in both types."
The schedule, which is more similar to college than the typical professional one, consists of two games a week for a total of 42. The longest road trip is just five hours away, but it doesn't come with smooth sailing traveling.
When talking about the biggest difference he's noticed, one thing came to mind. "Some of the games are literally on the top of mountains," Dainton said. "So you will be on the team bus going up the side of a mountain on a road that doesn't even look like it's wide enough to support the bus. The first time was quite the eye opener." Needless to say, no comparisons can be made to that back home.
With so much downtime, it leaves room to explore the ins and outs of Italy. From the food to the sights, Dainton has made sure to keep himself busy. Going over with very minimal Italian under his belt, teaching himself the language has been a challenge.
"It took me three times to pass a French class at UMass. If it were Italian, I would still be at school now," Dainton jokes. The eclectic goalie has even found time to take up guitar lessons during the week. He boasts about the atmosphere but says if there is one thing that Italy does right; it's the food and wine without a doubt.
There are also downfalls that come with traveling so far away from the only continent he has ever known. Dainton had to leave his dog, Lexi, back home in Canada. It was tough for him to say goodbye to her, but he knows it is just temporary. Last month, Paul's family flew out to spend Christmas in Milan with him. "I was exited to have an English conversation," Dainton laughed.
This well-traveled goalie has not forgotten those back at school, as some would think is the natural progression after graduating. "UMass will always be a home for me and I keep in touch with a lot of the guys that I have played with and still play there now. I'm sure every goalie could tell you this, but I keep in touch with the tenders the most, and a handful of the 'normals'. I'd like to say `hi' to Joel Hanley as well. The kid has great flow."
Although Dainton's contract is currently just for this season, he hopes to build a career off of his new start overseas. It is safe to say that this goalie is not slowing down any time soon.