The blueliner lined up for Ak Bars last year, scoring 28 (8+20) points in the regular season and adding another three in the first-round swap by Avangard Omsk. In spite of the successful campaign in Tatarstan, Paul Postma moved to Metallurg this summer. However, he played only ten games for Magnitogorsk, moving on in Switzerland. "I've been in Kazan for a year," Postma starts the conversation. "I've so many memories. Coming from North America, going to Russia is a big change. A big culture shock. Some things are very difficult; for me, the hardest part was the language. In Kazan, you're living in a baza, and you get very close with the team as you see each other every day. When you leave the baza, it's pretty tough. In the restaurants, the people speak mostly Russian, not everyone speaks English, and that's the biggest memory that I have. The way I struggled to get around and get by...But I met a lot of good people; hockey is really good, even if it can get very different structurally-wise. It was a great life experience for me."
Ak Bars Kazan and Salavat Yulaev will go at it on Dec. 23 in Davos as the KHL World Games are set in Switzerland for the second year in a row. Postma is sure that Swiss fans should come and visit the game. "It will be two great teams. Right now, Kazan is playing very well," the blueliner still follows his old team. "The KHL is one of the best leagues in the world. It's not quite NHL-caliber, but it's pretty close. It's a fast game; it's different from Swiss hockey. You can expect more of a physical game. It's a really structured game, but at the same time, the Russian players are very talented. They work really hard, and they are very dedicated. I would definitely go and watch that game."
As a member of the Ak Bars Kazan franchise, Postma had a chance to be a part of the Green Derby last year. "It's pretty similar to the Ticino Derby there is here in Lugano," he explains. "Although here the fans are louder. The crowd here is amazing: one of the best I have had in my whole career. A derby is a derby; it's a pride game. A good rivalry developed between the teams and everyone wants to win. The fans can expect an intense and fun game."
The Canadian blueliner played three Green Derbies last year, scoring once. "It was one of my first experiences of a derby," Postma recalls. "Every game is tough, but in a derby, everyone is finishing their checks. Being part of such a game was crazy. Looking back, it was a fun experience and something special."
Postma, who amassed four points in ten games so far in the Swiss League, has also shared his experience with the differences between playing in the NHL and the KHL: "There are huge differences. The ice is bigger in the KHL. They are shrinking the ice pads, but it's still bigger than in the NHL. It's more of a skill game, more of a puck-possession game. You don't have a lot of 'Dump and chase' as you have in North America. It's more like holding the puck and trying to get your way around it and find an opportunity. Teams are really dedicated to their systems, and they try hard to shut down the oppositions. There is a lot of skill around, and it's definitely one of the best leagues in the world."
Things didn't go well for Postma in his second stint in the KHL. He only played ten games for Metallurg. "I think that it was a matter of the team signing so many new players in the offseason. We had six defensemen who are playing pretty similarly to me. When you only had five spots for import players, you're not going to waste one on something you already have. I wasn't playing a lot and the team decided to part ways with me. I got a new challenge and a chance to play here in Lugano, and I'm very happy with it."
Now, the blueliner has a good impression of yet another league to add to his resume, the Swiss top-flight tier. "Every league is different in their own ways," he says. "I had to adjust system-wise, but the biggest thing is to get speeding up and control the ice. It's so big here, and you always have to pay attention. Whether you are in the offensive or the defensive zone, the key is to keep moving. The first couple of games were a challenge for me, but now I definitely caught up. I really like playing here. It's not very physical, but I think that it fits my game well."
Tickets for the game are available online, costing from 10 to 40 Swiss Francs. Children under 6 can go for free with an accompanying adult, while schoolchildren and teenagers under the age of 19 can claim a 50% discount on the ticket price.
Further information on this month's game, and on the KHL World Games Project, can be found in English and in German at https://worldgames.khl.ru