ZURICH-KLOTEN – Coming into Sunday’s game against Canada, Levente Szuper was eager to face Canada. Having spent time in junior and minor pro, Szuper was eager to match his skills against some of the best players in the world. But over the first twenty minutes of play, Szuper saw firsthand the strength of the Canadian offensive attack.
In the end, Hungary was overmatched by the swarming Canada offence, en route to a 9-0 loss. Szuper gave up six goals on 25 shots faced in 29:03 minutes of play.
“They just kept coming and coming,” said Szuper. “Usually when a team is up they might slow down but the Canadians didn’t. They played hard, were humble, and showed why they are among the best in the world. I admire that.”
Szuper was not content just to be on the ice with the Canadians, he wanted to win, which is a refreshing attitude for a player on a team not among the elite national squads here at the IIHF World Championships.
“That’s why you play sports is to win,” said Szuper. “If you ask Matthew Lombardi on Team Canada how I was in practice when we were teammates he would tell you that I was mad anytime some scored on me.”
Clearly, Szuper is a competitor who expects to be at his best when tapped to start in goal. Szuper’s passion not only for hockey - he expects to play well enough to keep his team in games and alive in this tournament.
“We had a really good practice before the game,” said Szuper. “As a goaltender you don’t want to give up any goals; it’s killing me know that I did.”
Szuper displays the true traits of a leader who looks inward at what he can do differently without pointing fingers. He is accountable for his performance and understands that he must help teammates when necessary - on and off the ice.
Szuper arrived in North America in 1998 and helped guide the Ottawa 67’s to the Memorial Cup title and was named the F.W. “Dinty” Moore trophy winner as best rookie goaltender.
“Hockey-wise it was the best time of my life,” Szuper said of the experience. “You know you were competing to be at the top level against the top players in the world. When you play in Canada, you can’t do any better than that.”
He was drafted 116th overall by the Calgary Flames in 2000 and won the Calder Cup championship with their AHL affiliate St. John Flames. Szuper would make it to the NHL during the 2002-03 season where he suited up for nine games but did not get a start. He was so close, but yet so far.
“As a kid I dreamed of being able to play in Canada and I was fortunate enough to have the chance to do so,” he said. “I hope to have that chance again.”
Szuper, only 28, is hoping to use the tournament to showcase his skills in the hopes of attracting some interest from North American teams. In years past, the World Championships have been the springboard that launched NHL or AHL careers for players from various nations.
He is pragmatic about his chances.
“This tournament could be a platform that helps me get back to North America but let’s be honest, it is real hard to showcase your skills in games like this.”
Szuper knows this might be difficult, given the results of his last game. It will be a difficult climb for Team Hungary to come back and avoid being relegated.
“We have to keep it simple and just go out and play,” he said of their gameplan. “We know talent-wise that we are not matched with the elite teams. We are never favourite against any team we play but this team is a family and we’ll battle through the rest of the way.”