If Christian Dube
was 21, odds are with his speed and knack for the net the former New York Ranger would get a fair crack at latching on with the Blueshirts, something he feels didn't happen a decade ago when obstruction ruled the NHL.
"The way they play now in the NHL is more my style with the speed and stuff," Dube told NHL.com. "But I'm 31 now."
He may be, but he's a 31-year-old star hockey player living a dream life, albeit in Switzerland as a top-line center for SC Bern of the Swiss National League instead of playing big minutes for the Rangers, who drafted him in the second round in 1995.
"If I was 21 I would go back, but now I have a good life here and my family is having fun," added Dube, who will get a chance to play his former team when the Rangers visit SC Bern on Sept. 30. "For me, there's no way I want to go back now."
Dube recalls that 10 years ago he had a growing disenchantment with the game, which caught him off guard considering he was at the height of his career a year earlier when he won his second straight gold medal at the World Junior Championship.
He was the second-leading scorer on the 1996 squad behind Jarome Iginla
. Later that year, he was named the CHL's Player of the Year after leading the Sherbrooke Faucons of the QMJHL with 145 points.
He led the 1997 National Junior team with 7 points and was selected to the tournament's All-Star team. After the WJC, which happened to take place in Switzerland, he made his NHL debut with the Rangers, playing 27 games with one goal and one assist.
Dube, drafted to be a scoring threat, struggled to adjust because he couldn't play his speed game in the NHL. It sapped his passion for the game.
"If you look back at when he was coming up into the NHL, it was in the days when everybody wanted 6-2 and 6-3 guys," SC Bern coach John Van Boxmeer
, a former NHL player and assistant coach, told NHL.com. "Guys like Christian just couldn't get to the net. They just couldn't fight through all the traffic areas to be effective players. His game is to be a skater and a shooter. He's a playmaker."
After spending most of the next two seasons with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Dube needed a pick-me-up or his once promising hockey career was going to crumble.
He found it in Switzerland, a country he knew quite well having lived there for 12 years before moving to Sherbrooke, QC, at the age of 15 to give himself a fighting chance at making it to the NHL.
"I had enough with New York because I was there three years and didn't get a chance," said Dube, whose father, Norm, played and coached in Switzerland before moving the family back to Canada. "I didn't have fun playing hockey and I was 21.
"A few teams from Switzerland approached me. New York said they would trade me if I didn't want to be there anymore, but I said I'd go to Switzerland for a year and see what happens. Now it's my 10th season."
even though teammate Simon Gamache
, who played in the NHL as recently as last season, told NHL.com, "Dube is one of those guys good enough to play in the NHL," Dube couldn't imagine his life being any different or, for that matter, any better than it is right now.
"None at all," he said when asked if he has any regrets about his NHL experience.
Dube is happily married with a growing family. His time on the road is minimal and even during the season he spends most nights in his own bed because SC Bern rarely stays over when it plays a road game.
In the summer, Dube and his family return to their home on the lake in Sherbrooke. He trains with Stephane Robidas
, Jocelyn Thibault
, Yanic Perreault
and Mark Streit
, among others. He remains close friends with Danny Briere
, who was one of many NHL stars that played for SC Bern during the work stoppage in 2004-05.
"I said I'd go to Switzerland for a year and see what happens. Now it's my 10th season."
-- Christian Dube
Dube is also in the first year of a new four-year contract, and he's a dynamic star in the Swiss League. Over his previous nine seasons, including three with HC Lugano and the past six with SC Bern, Dube has 398 points in 364 games. He helped SC Bern, easily the most popular team in the league, win the championship in 2004.
"You have more time for yourself, your family, and you are never on the road," Dube said. "europe is so small that in an hour you can be in Italy, France or Germany. There are so many nice things to see. My wife speaks four languages, and I speak three."
These, Dube said, are life experiences he would never have gotten in the NHL.
"I'm not in the best league in the world and I'm probably missing out on something, but I am having fun here," he said. "It's all good for me. I have a good life and I'm happy with it."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com