There are likely few players in BC history as decorated as John Muse. A Hockey East regular season winner, three-time Beanpot and Hockey East tournament victor, and two-time National Champion, Muse had a 89-39-16 record as an Eagle.
Since then, Muse has had a nearly decade-long professional hockey career spanning multiple leagues. But only recently has it spanned multiple continent. Muse has found himself playing in China for Kunlun Red Star of the VHL, a unique and cool position for any hockey player. We sat down with him to hear about his experience and voyage there:
Can you detail your path to China for our readers? What made you decide to go there instead of continuing in different North American leagues?
It happened pretty quickly actually. My agent received a call from the Kunlun GM at the beginning of August and by the second week of August I was in Beijing. I had been thinking of playing overseas for the past couple of years, and when this opportunity arose I figured if I was going to make the jump overseas now was the time.
What did you expect from the KHL/China? How did it end up being different?
I honestly had no expectations when I was heading over there. You obviously hear a lot of interesting stories about the KHL, so I knew it would be an eye opening experience and made sure to have an open mind once I got to China. And it definitely ended up being quite the experience. I saw and did a lot of amazing things in both China and Russia as well as some not so great things, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
What’s the makeup of the KHL look like? Is it mostly former North American players?
There are definitely a lot of former NHL and AHL players in the KHL, but that’s limited because each team can only dress 5 imports per game. So as a result, the majority of players are Russians who have either spent the majority of their careers in the KHL or younger prospects who have yet to make the jump to North America. And then obviously you get older Russians who have come back from the NHL like Datsyuk and Semin.
What’s the domestic hockey scene like in China, both inside and outside of the KHL? Is it gaining any traction and has the NHL/other leagues made a substantial effort to market there (a la the NBA)?
Muse: Hockey is definitely a work in progress in China. It’s still in its early stages, so not nearly on the level of basketball in China. I will say though, there are a lot more young kids playing hockey than I expected which is a bright spot for the future of the game in China. I can’t remember seeing any marketing done by NHL teams while I was living in Beijing or Shenzhen, so I think in order to grow the game into what basketball has become in China that will need to happen. I do believe though that having the winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022 should definitely increase the popularity of hockey throughout the country.
What was the transition like overseas?
Muse: China is extremely different than America, so it was quite the culture shock. Especially for someone who had never been outside of North America until last April. Having said that, I enjoyed everything about the transition. Luckily I’m pretty laid back and independent, so I had a great time exploring a completely different culture even though at times it could be difficult being somewhere where I was the only white person around or the only English speaking person.
What have you most enjoyed being over there?
Muse: Definitely the traveling aspect. Playing over here this season has afforded me the opportunity to see so many amazing places in China, Russia, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia both during and after the season. It has truly been eye opening learning about so many different cultures and seeing how people from other parts of the world live.
What’s been most challenging?
Muse: Other than being in China during the Corona Virus outbreak, I’d say the language barrier has been the most difficult. I was able to learn a decent amount of Mandarin from a few of my teammates and a language app on my phone, but google translate was always a necessity. Believe it or not, it was a lot easier in China than Russia though because in China people look at me and don’t even try to speak Chinese to me, whereas in Russia they see that I’m white and think I speak Russian. And I understand about 10 words of Russian, so that’s always fun.
Do you for-see yourself playing a few more seasons there? Or do you plan on heading home?
Muse: I’m not really sure what is going to happen. Right now with the Corona Virus outbreak shutting everything down throughout the world, I think everyone is unsure of what the future holds. I would definitely like to continue playing for Kunlun though, wherever they end up playing next season.
Do you have any plans for when you eventually decide the to hang up your skates?
Muse: No definite plans as I’d like to continue playing hockey for a few more years, but once I retire I’d like to work in real estate.
What do you miss most about BC?
Muse: New England Classic with chips and a side of blue cheese and hot sauce
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you come back the States?
Muse: Well since I won’t be able to see my parents for 2 weeks once I get home because of quarantining, next best thing will be seeing my dog, Fran. And then straight to our family’s pizza restaurant, Paul’s Pizza, for a pizza. [You can read more about the Muse family establishment, Paul’s Pizza, here]