Kevin Czuczman starts his first season with Ilves.
Kuva © Gregory Vasil

Kevin "Churchie" Czuczman feeling refreshed with his move to Ilves: "I truly feel like a rookie again"

After playing in the AHL for the past eight seasons, defenseman Kevin Czuczman is excited to play his first season within Europe as a member of Ilves.

A lot went into the decision to play abroad as Kevin Czuczman was looking at different options before ultimately signing with the Tampere based team. He outlined some of the most important reasons for signing with Ilves.

− It checked every single box: great city, great organization, top team and Champions League. Could not have picked a better place to continue my career as a player. Both the people within Tampere and the Ilves organization have been extremely welcoming as well, said the defenseman.

Czuczman has played four practice games, three in Tampere and one on the road in Kuopio, with very positive initial impressions. 

− Ilves is a first class organization top to bottom. They do not leave any stone unturned. The attention to detail is incredible. The team has a culture of winning and you see why they are trending in the right direction. The more that I play, the more comfortable I am getting.

The defenseman was shocked by the fans and their passion at the ”Ilves Päivä” in Särkänniemi.

– You are playing for more than just the name on the back, it's the jersey on the front. You are playing for the guys before you and the city. It is something so special that has really been embraced here that not a lot of other places have. It is such a cool spot!

The Nokia Arena is a new facility for team as they began using it just last season. Two games were played there during the Tampere Cup as an introduction to the game atmosphere.

− The facilities are world class. Nokia Arena is an amazing place to play and train. The history of the team being on display is also inspiring. The fans are close to you without feeling like they are right on top of you, it is a comfortable feeling playing there. The energy of the fans is definitely felt by the players and coaches during the game.

Big goals for himself and the team 

Players usually have personal goals each season. Czuczman has big goals for himself but also for the team as they navigate through both Liiga and Champions Hockey League.

− My personal goals are to get better on both sides of the puck, to be strong defensively so I am hard to play against, jump into the rush to contribute that way more often and improve day after day. Most importantly being a great teammate and doing whatever I can to help this team win, "Churchie" stated.

Moving forward with both seasons and with Ilves finishing third in Liiga last year, a championship appears within reach.

− I have never won a championship during my pro career and it would be special to do that this season either in Liiga or Champions Hockey League. All the pieces are in place top to bottom across all lines, the goalies and also the coaches. The organization and fans are all just waiting for it to happen.

Czuczman expressed gratitude and hope as the regular season for Liiga and CHL are set to begin very soon.

– It is a privilege putting on the jersey and playing for Ilves as we pursue a championship together. Hopefully we find what we are chasing.

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