This offseason saw a brand new influx of North Americans in the PHL, thanks to the league doing away with import rules. There were many prominent North American free agents to make the jump to Poland, including ECHL All-star Mike Szmatula and former University of North Dakota goaltender Clarke Saunders. Podhale Nowy Targ brought in Canadian coach Phillip Barski. Barski brought in a few North Americans with the common thread of being players that they played in USports, the top Canadian college hockey league. GKS Tychy brought in one Usport player of their own in Christian Mroczkowski. Mroczkowski joining Tychy was not big news in Poland at the time. The Wellesley, Ontario native came to Poland on a try-out later earning a full deal after a strong camp. “My agent Rafal Omasta set it up for me, and I’m really happy I ended up signing here.”
His first test in a GKS Tychy jersey would come in the Champions Hockey League as Poland took on Adler Mannheim (Deutsche Eishockey Liga) and Djurgården Stockholm (Swedish Hockey League). Two teams that are well above Poland on paper. “It was a good chance for us to play against the best teams in Europe, and we showed in a few of those games that we can compete with them and can beat them, it has prepared us well for the PHL this year.”
Regardless of what you think of the Champions Hockey League as a hockey tournament, the one thing you can’t deny is their great social media presence and digital marketing efforts. There Christian Mroczkowski represented the team in social media videos.
He was also able to show his skills with the Polish language. “My parents taught it to me, and I have a lot of friends from home who speak polish too.” He is probably the first North American import I have seen that can speak Polish that well.
On the ice in the Champions Hockey League, the forward impressed Polish fans with his all-around skill. His offensive and physical efforts were often highlighted by Polish fans. “I would say I’m an offensive player who likes to be creative but can also play the North American style of hitting and defense on the penalty kill.” These skills have served him well as in his first eight PHL games. He has ten points (5-5-10) to start the season. That is good for the most on GKS Tychy and tied for the seventh-most in the league.
In GKS Tychy, that were four other North American teammates to start the season, now three as Mike Smaztula has departed. Americans John Murray and Mike Cichy, along with Canadian Alex Szczechura, have all become veterans of the PHL since signing in Poland during the early 2010s. “They have helped me a lot, especially in the beginning with getting settled here in Tychy.” The three North Americans also have another thing in common as they all obtained a Polish passport and have been able to represent Poland on the international stage. Given his heritage and deal in Poland, I had to ask the question of whether the national team was something he had thought about at all. “Yes, it is something I have thought about and hopefully, I have the chance to play for them one day, but right now, the focus is 100% on winning another championship with GKS Tychy.”