Sen adjusting to Scandinavia

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Thank goodness Chris Phillips can walk the walk, because he sure can't talk the talk.

Of course, it would help the Senators defenceman if he could understand what Brynas Gavle IF coach Rory Cyro was saying to him, because it's all just a bunch of jabber to Phillips.

"That's probably been the most difficult adjustment because the practices are in Swedish. It's kind of like charades. You watch the arms wave and then try to figure out what's going on," Phillips told the Sun yesterday.

After sitting around Ottawa for six weeks, Phillips packed up his equipment -- along with wife Erin and their two young children (Ben and Zoe) -- and headed for Sweden on Nov. 5 to start playing again.

Phillips wasn't accomplishing anything playing in the Manotick men's league on Sunday nights or renting ice on Friday afternoon with a bunch of buddies, so he decided to head for Sweden to get real competition.

Yes, Phillips could have signed for the big money everybody is getting in Russia, but it would have been a culture shock that wouldn't be good for his young family and he wasn't leaving Ottawa without them.

Instead of accepting a $1-million deal in Russia, Phillips is getting enough to pay the bills in Sweden. Although this is not a decision about the money. He wanted to stay sharp because he's hopeful there will be an NHL season.

"I wouldn't have put my family through that," said Phillips. "That's why this has been an easy adjustment. Most of the younger people here speak English and it's maybe been a little easier than we thought it would be.

DACKELL A HELP

"Yes, we're far from home and the lifestyle is different, but we haven't had any major problems since we got here. It was a little tough in the hotel at first because it was such as a small place, but it's been good."

Since flying to Gavle (Pop. 85,000), Phillips has moved his family into a small two-bedroom apartment in the city. He's fortunate it's the home town of former Senators winger Andreas Dackell.

Dackell, who won't return to Montreal because he plans to play in Sweden all season, has helped make the transition smoother for the Phillips. On the ice, there have been no incidents with European players who are mad Phillips is taking a cheque with Gavle.

"That was one of the first questions I asked (Dackell). I wanted to know how the other players felt about guys like myself and (Chicago's) Tyler Arnanson being here. There hasn't been any animosity," said Phillips.

"Nobody has said anything to me in the games we've played. There's a lot of good competition because there's a lot of strong players in this league. It's been a lot of fun to just get back to playing hockey."

Fortunately for Phillips, he arrived just before the Swedes had a 10-day break in the schedule to prepare for Christmas tournaments. That gave him a chance to find an apartment, get a car, a phone and make sure there was furniture for the family as well.

FACING CHARA

There will be a Senators showdown tonight when Phillips suits up for his fourth game in the Swedish league. He'll make the four-hour trip to face Farjestad, which has hulking defenceman Zdeno Chara on the roster.

"The hockey has been pretty good. It's a big adjustment for me because of the big ice. I'm getting a chance to play. I came here because I wanted good competition and I wanted to stay in game shape," said Phillips.

"You hope that we'll be playing hockey this year (in North America), but nobody is sure what's going to happen. Right now, this is probably the best option for me and I've been fortunate that I've come to a good situation."

Now, all Phillips has to do is get a quick course in Swedish hockey terms so he doesn't keep messing up the drills.


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