Hungarian Hockey League Hijinx!

With the lockout looking like it could go on for a while I thought I would share an interesting story from my time in Hungary last lockout. I went over there in January with my cousin and great friend Rob Niedermayer. It was great to play in an organized league after so many months of just waiting around.

We had a great time there and we were treated incredibly well. I have many great stories from our time in Hungary but I will start with this one because it is something I don’t think I will see again!

Our team, Ferencvaros, is an old club with a lot of history. We both loved the history of the club and the green and white colored jerseys. During the time of communism in Hungary, Ferencvaros was known as the team that went against the state. For that reason, they had and still do have many, many die hard supporters.

We would typically practice in the evening because many of our teammates were in school or had other jobs during the day. There was a very nice rink that we would use for ice times and we had never had an issue before but on this particular day right away we could tell it wouldn’t be business as usual.

We arrived at the rink ready to go when one of our team mates told us the ice was doubled booked. At times the message would get lost in translation but basically there was some disagreement between the rink and our club so they gave our ice time to a bunch of recreational league players. It didn’t look like we would be practicing.

Our coach, a Russian guy, who spoke about as much English as I do Russian wouldn’t accept that decision. He decided we were still going to practice. So we all got dressed and went out on to the ice with rec leaguers. They were playing shinny and we started to do our regular practice. Talk about having to keep your head up! It was crazy out there. Players going in every possible direction.

The rec leaguers were really cool about it and many were big fans of our team. After a while they said they were going to leave so we could practice for real. Very cool move by them. But this is when everything went sideways!

The rink manager called the police to come and kick us off the ice. Four policemen showed up. They walked around to the bench and from their arm gestures I could tell they wanted us to get off the ice. Our coach said to keep practicing. The police starting yelling and were getting quite upset.

After about ten minutes our assistant coach went over to talk with them. He was a pretty calm guy but after about one minute his discussion with the police exploded into yelling! The police then grabbed on to him and were trying to pull him into the bench!

Our whole team rushes over to the bench to help our assistant coach out. It turns into a tug-o-war for out coach between the four policeman and our players. Back and forth our poor coach goes. Finally one of our guys decides to put an end to it. He slashes one of cops on the head!!! Bam!

The tone of the negotiations takes a dramatic turn into negative territory after the slash! The cops let go of our coach, they get on their radios call for back up and our head coach decides now is a good time for practice to end!

Rob and I have mainly been watching all this happen but we now decide it is time to get out of here. Fast! We get into the dressing rooms, throw our gear off and run into the showers. All I can think of is being thrown into a jail cell in a foreign country, not my idea of a good time.

(Photo: Jakob Sigurdsson/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 2.0)

As we are having a quick shower, in walk a bunch of police in full riot gear! I am naked in the shower and a cop in full riot gear is yelling at me in Hungarian to get out. I didn’t like my chances if a donnybrook broke out so I went right into the locker room.

I am sitting in the locker room with only a towel on with all my teammmates and at least twenty police in full riot gear wanting to know who slashed their guy. We are all told no one is leaving until the guilty player is found. If not, we are all going down to the police station were we will remain in custody until this gets sorted out.

At that moment I was getting a little nervous. If I could have spoken Hungarian I would have squealed like a pig and pointed the finger. Yes, I would have become a rat!

But I couldn’t so I sat there freezing and more than a little uncomfortable. They came around asking for our license and passports. Both Rob and I lied saying we didn’t have them here. I wasn’t going to give those up, I didn’t know if I’d get it back.

There we sat for over two hours until our team president was able to sort it all out. Cooler heads prevailed in the end and we were all allowed to go without the guilty player being discovered.

Of course as part of the deal we were not allowed to return to that rink again, which made sense. We started to practice outside which was awesome. Rob and I both loved it, we even played a game outside which is one of my best hockey memories.

I often wonder if Ferencvaros ever worked out a deal to get back into that rink. I hope they did. It was a pretty crazy day but a story I will be telling my great grandkids. I guess the lesson to be learned from this is ‘don’t slash cops.’

Previously by Jason Strudwick

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Lol. pain, the universal language. Nothing brings out passion quicker than a subtle pile drive to the face….a little slewfoot or spear behind the knee. Good times seem always linked with passion.

    Maybe if you would’ve made a B line towards them, layed down a snow shower and started screaming at him in english you could’ve finished practice, no? Have to think an enraged Jason Strudwick berating him in english would certainly put him on his heals as well. An opportunity to provide some leadership may have been missed here.

    One post here on Oilersnation Jason, a bottle drive would’ve quickly been organized to help bail you out.

  • Rob...

    Wait, so after the cop is slashed and it looks like you’re all going to end up going to jail you decide the best strategy is to get naked and lather up?

    Was this instinctive, or are there other past stories about prison life that you’ll only tell at charity golf tournaments?

  • Rob...


    I had a couple of buddies (brothers) from Calahoo who had played in the BCJHL who went over there in late 1994. Their parents were born in Hungary, but came over with their family after the invasion in 59 (I think). Rob was 21 and Mike was 19, but unhappy with his team. A grandparent saw an ad for try-outs for a Hungarian team in Toronto, so they both decided to give it a whirl.

    Both of them were over 6′ 2″, Rob was 220+, Mike was 190, Rob was arguably the heavywieght champ of the BCJHL, Mike was more of a mucker, but both were very accomplished athletes in other sports.

    Anyway they made the team, basically ran over everyone at the try-outs, because the coach told them they were looking for Canadian-style players.
    Coach promised them the moon, but it wasn’t as expected when they arrived.

    They played for Ujpesti Uge in Budapest, the one with the outdoor rink. Their goalie always drove a brand new high-end sports car (Ferraris and Porsches) – he was caught a couple years later (bank robber). Read this in Sports Illustrated.

    There were a few accomplished Russians that played over there, but I don’t know their names. I had asked the boys to bring home some game tapes, the coached promised, but didn’t deliver….I have one tape from tv news sports highlights, where Mike runs over the d at the blueline, but the puck gets to the net and the bad guys scored. Actually I think it may have been your team they were playing…..

    Immediately after Mike beaks off at the bench and gets pulled in, somehow he escapes. Then fists start flying, Rob basically takes on three players, you see one player on the bench run over and try and chop him with an overhead two-hander, but misses. The other Ujpesti guys weren’t anywhere to be seen though. They didn’t know the language, so they had a tough time and spent up to 6 hrs a day riding the subway to the rink and apartment, plus the money wasn’t as good as promised. They did their own negotiation, so there was no agent involved.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Rob got high sticked in the lips, and his broken tooth was protruding through his bottom lip. No penalty, so he skated to the ref, spit blood on the ice and was given a penalty for unsportsman like conduct. That was their last game, I think they were there for maybe 3 months.

    When they got back to Alberta the senior team in Peace River picked both of them up. Apparently they almost picked up Bob Beers, but took Mike instead. They stayed at the coaches house and Mike kinda got involved with his twin teenaged daughters… that was their last year there.

    That was their last year in hockey until I got the idea that Mike still had something left to prove, so I acted as his agent and got him a try-out with Abilene in the WPHL in 1999. Rob was 26 and I had asked him if he was interested in finding a team, but he was pessimistic, until Mike got signed. I got him a try-out with Lubbock, Rob May’s team. In the end Rob made Lubbock, Mike was cut and that was the end of his “career”. Rob was later traded to Abilene, which then folded about 25 games into the season. Rob played with 3 other teams, but that was his first and only year down there.

    Later that year I was watching the morning show on A Channel and they were looking for players to go one-on-one with the Panda’s goalie. The winner got 6 tix and limo ride to the Oil vs Flames in Calgary. Mike won, but due to a Vegas trip him and his buddies were going on, he donated the tix back to the station with the proceeds going to Cross Cancer Institute.

    Anyway, I figure this might be entertaining for someone…..

  • Rob...

    Jason – good story although seems a bit embellished. Showers (not a good place to run) and passports in a foreign country which was really never communist. Even if the cops would take your passports you would get out out of there without a problem. Good on you to promote hockey in Hungary though!

    • Jason Gregor


      I didn’t embellish any of this. It happened just the way I said. We ran into the showers as all players do after every skate across the world.

      Also Hungary was a communist a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union from 1947 – 1989. We did a lot of sight seeing when we were there. The stories that were shared with us were incredible. I felt very lucky to live in a country where that never happened.

  • Rob...

    I messed up the last part, I submitted Mike’s name, without him knowing and he was selected. I think there were 8 skaters….

    The following day Mike was all over the show with him saying things like: “you gotta go higher”. I think it was great for him, even though I think he was slightly embarrassed, at the same time I think it made him feel like a hockey player again. It was great for him to “finish” like that by giving back.

    • Jason Gregor

      This is actually Strudwick!!! I don’t know how to change who it signed in on the computer.

      Sounds like the guys had a pretty crazy time over there. That is what it can be like over there. The Wild West of hockey contracts!

      Good story!

      • Wanyes bastard child


        Yeah there were a few other crazy stories they told, lots of threats of violence, one game where all kinds of things were being thrown at them from the stands, riot police and dogs and a police escort for them on the subway/train. I wonder if the guy who slashed the cop was the same guy who tried chopping Rob from the bench, lol.

  • Ha great story! I feel like I’m sitting in Mr. Strudwick’s living room with a nice beverage, having some laughs.

    Thanks for a pleasant taste of hockey humor during a particularly crappy hockey year.