By RYAN MCCRACKEN on July 12, 2019.
Max Gerlach is taking his talents across the pond.
The former Medicine Hat Tigers sniper signed a one-year deal with the Swiss League’s HC Ambri-Piotta after closing out his WHL career with the Saskatoon Blades, and says he’s looking forward to expanding his horizons in a beautiful new setting.
“It’s sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun and obviously to get the chance to live in Switzerland, I think it’s probably No. 1 in the world in quality of lifestyle, so it’s going to be pretty exciting,” said Gerlach, adding he’s been talking to former Tigers imports about taking on the title for himself in Europe. “I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it, talking with some of the guys from Europe like Linus (Nassen) and John Dahlstrom and stuff like that, and a couple guys here that play over there, it just sounds like the league is really competitive. It’s one of the top leagues, probably that and the SHL are the top two leagues that have the best hockey over there. It’s going to be really competitive.”
While Gerlach says import rules will likely keep him on Ambri-Piotta’s B team, he will be eligible to take part in marquee tournaments like the Spengler Cup – which Ambri-Piotta will be competing in next season for the first time in club history.
“As of right now I’m supposed to play on the B team with Ticino,” he said. “But in the Spengler Cup, the Swiss Cup and the Champions League there’s no import rule. They already have four imports and they’re all pretty well-known – they’ve all been there for quite a while, except for the goalie I think they just signed. But those tournaments I can play in, I just have to pretty much prove to them I can be there and make a difference.”
Gerlach made history in Medicine Hat as the first player to score a goal at the Canalta Centre after joining up with the Tigers as a 17-year-old rookie in the 2015-16 season. The 5-foot-9, 172-pound forward went on to record at least 30 goals in every one of his four years in the WHL – including 42 with the Blades this year – and insists his development in the Dub helped pave the way to a professional career.
“I think I’ve definitely grown and matured quite a bit,” said Gerlach. “After talking to a lot of people who play over there and some people who play in the Swiss league, they said that I should be in pretty good hands going over there after playing four years in the WHL and maturing through that process. Luckily I was able to play for two really great organizations and meet a lot of good people. I think it’s all really helped me for this first step in professional hockey and hopefully this pays off.”
Although Gerlach was shipped to Saskatoon in a last-minute deal at the 2018 trade deadline – where he became a key face in the team’s spirited playoff run this season – he says he still maintains great relationships with many of his former Tiger teammates and will always look back fondly on his time in the Hat.
“I’m lucky that I had such great teammates and coaches and things like that to help me enjoy my time in the Dub. I wouldn’t trade anything for it,” he said. “I didn’t think much of it when I first got into the league and people said that major junior was going to be the best time of your life. It definitely has been so far.”
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