Browse the names listed on the provisional roster for Germany’s Olympic men’s hockey team, and there aren’t too many names that stick out – a few Thomases, one Sven, one Jakub, and umlauts aplenty.
And then, as you scroll down the list: Travis James.
Doesn’t quite fit, does it?
The Travis James in question is actually 24-year-old T.J. Mulock, the former captain of the Surrey Eagles, who was the B.C. Hockey League team’s leading playoff scorer during the team’s championship season in 2004/05. He captained the team the following year before joining the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers midway through the season.
Since graduating from the junior ranks in 2006, Mulock, a Langley native, has been plying his trade in Germany, first with second division Bad Toelz EC, and this season with Eisbaren Berlin – which translates to Berlin Polar Bears – of the Deutsche Elite League – the highest level in the country.
And though his name seems a little out of place on a list of Germany’s top homegrown hockey talents, no one is more surprised than Mulock himself, a Canadian citizen who obtained his dual citizenship in the fall of 2008.
“It’s just so surreal. I don’t know if I’ve quite grasped it all yet,” he said Friday from Berlin.
“It probably won’t really hit me until I get home to Vancouver, and see everything. It’s really tough to explain (how I feel) right now.”
Though he’s playing in his first season with Berlin – big brother Tyson is also on the team – the younger Mulock has acquitted himself quite nicely, scoring six goals and adding 10 assists in 20 games. And he’s become quite fond of the lifestyle, too – players in the DEL typically make more money there than they would playing on the minor-league circuit in North America, while playing fewer games.
“It’s absolutely great, I love it,” said Mulock, whose grandfather on his mother’s side of the family was from Germany.
But as much as he loves Berlin – he’s under contract for three more seasons – he said he can’t wait to return home to Vancouver for the Olympics. It will be the first time since his junior hockey days that he’ll get to play in front of familiar faces – and he’ll be up against the best National Hockey League players from around the world, to boot.
“To have this opportunity to be in the Olympics is one thing, but to be able to play in front of my family and my friends… it’s pretty great,” he said.
Mulock isn’t the only member of Germany’s Olympic that wasn’t born in the country. Three other Canadian-born players are on the roster, as is defenceman Jakub Ficenec, who was born in the Czech Republic. Incidentally, Ficenec is also a former Surrey Eagle, having played on the Peninsula in the late ’90s.
Mulock insists he won’t have any trouble donning the black, red and gold uniform of the German team, despite growing up cheering for Canada. In fact, he’s already suited up once for his adopted country – at last spring’s World Hockey Championships, where he faced off against NHL superstars Ilya Kovalchuk (Russia) and Jason Spezza (Canada), among others.
“Absolutely, it’s a little bit different, and I was a bit uneasy about it at first, but I’m getting used to it now,” he said.
“And I don’t feel like I’m choosing one country over another. Playing in Canada, I never got to that level, so (playing for Germany) wasn’t really a tough decision.”
Heading into the Olympic tournament, Germany will be a definite underdog – only seven of its players currently play in the NHL – but Mulock is excited for the opportunity, nonetheless. Germany will play in Pool C in Vancouver, along with Finland, Belarus and gold-medal contenders Sweden.
“Sweden and Finland are going to be tough, no question, but we’re really looking at that Belarus game as one we can win,” said Mulock.
“But it’s also a short tournament – it’s just one game (knockout) – and everybody knows that in that format, anything can happen.”