Invermere resident Darryl Stettler is having the time of his life right now, living out a dream to return to the ice as a professional hockey player. While it is a laudable feat to make it to a semi-pro team, what makes this victory even more impressive is Mr. Stettler’s age. He is 40 years old, playing with guys half his age on a Swiss hockey team for the season in a seven-month long contract.
While Mr. Stettler plays in rec leagues around the Valley and stays in good shape, he started focusing hard on the goal of making it to the Swiss league after a friend told him he might have a shot at it. This past August, he hopped on a plane to try out for the league.
“I thought I was going to get cut, that they would send me back home,” he confesses. “But the day I thought they were going to send me back home, I got a contract … It’s honestly a miracle I made it on this team.”
He equates the level of hockey as between Junior A and WHL.
“The hockey is so awesome,” says Mr. Stettler. “It’s really fast hockey – very technically skilled with stick handling, and the ice is a lot bigger.”
This is not Mr. Stettler’s first contract for hockey, nor his first time playing in Switzerland. He played the highest level of junior hockey in Switzerland after high school, then a semi-pro team in Switzerland about 15 years ago. His father is Swiss, so there was family interest in having him play in his father’s home country. Fifteen years is a long time in hockey life, but Mr. Stettler says it feels great to be back on the ice.
“It’s a lot of work. But I enjoy it, because I know it’s going to be my last season,” he sums up.
It was less than a week into the training schedule when Mr. Stettler stayed up late to Facetime interview with the Pioneer. At the time, he said while it is hard on the body, he attributes his ability to keep up with the younger guys to his healthy diet.
“At my age, I have to eat a very disciplined diet, and train probably a lot harder.”
As for the language challenges, it hasn’t been a major issue yet. While the headcoach speaks Swiss and German, his teammates mostly can speak English. The Swiss Mr. Stettler speaks is heavy on the hockey terms.
The Stettlers have multiple established businesses in the Columbia Valley, among them YPC Your Personal Connection, snow removal, lawn care, a gym and more. Thankfully, he has trustworthy employees looking after business on the home-front so he can pursue his dream.
He is appreciative of all the guys in the Valley he has had a chance to play over the years for helping him reach this goal.
“Every league, all those hockey guys, they all helped me, let me train with them,” he says. “I would’ve never been able to make it without them.”
Mr. Stettler’s wife and kids have joined him for the season, and were loving the new experience so far, he reports. They live in a beautiful part of the country, with a huge lake nearby and even castles.
“It’s like a dream come true where we live; it’s amazing,” he confesses.
Edit: Reflected to correctly address the country Mr. Stettler is playing in. Earlier version identified ‘swedish’ in relation to living in Switzerland. The Pioneer apologizes for this error.