Ten seasons. 457 games. 56 goals. 195 assists. 251 points. One championship. One promotion to the top league. It’s quite the résumé for Boxboro, Mass., native Kevin Kapstad. In his decade of professional hockey in Europe, he proved himself an invaluable member of all of the five organizations he played for. The smooth-skating defenseman collected plenty of accolades over his career.
There is one other number of note: 33. That’s how old Kapstad is today.
Most of us would consider ourselves lucky if we could retire that young. Some hockey players manage to earn the financial security to pull it off. Kapstad’s former University of New Hampshire teammate James van Riemsdyk could certainly consider it upon the expiration of his current 5-year, $35 million deal. While the contracts in Europe are certainly enough to live comfortably off of, having never signed on for more than two years, Kapstad wasn’t buying chalets in the Austrian Alps. That’s not to say he wasn’t enjoying the luxuries of a professional athlete in Europe. “We (with wife Jackie) traveled a lot. I wasn’t so concerned about saving all my money. I wanted to have my life experiences, too. It’s not like you’re making a million dollars a year. You know you’re going to have to work, at some point in your life.”
Those unique possibilities are what drew Kapstad to Europe in the first place. His father, Jan, is a Norwegian national, so Kapstad always had a loose connection to the east side of the Atlantic (despite those roots, Kapstad never played in Norway). After a strong career at UNH, the undrafted prospect knew the American minor-league circuit would be a grind. He wanted hockey to continue to open doors for him — this time, in Europe. “I didn’t really think I had a chance to crack the NHL. I got a lot of interest from the American League, but I just wanted to try and travel. I had had some friends that did it, and said it was awesome.”