From Kazakh captain to Grand Forks mayor in a year
by Martin Merk|10 JUN 2020
Not scared of new challenges: One year after captaining Kazakhstan to the top division of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Brandon Bochenski was elected mayor of Grand Forks.
photo: Marat Akimzhanov
One year ago interviewed Brandon Bochenski in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. He came out from a one-year break to play his eighth season in Kazakhstan with KHL club Barys and finished the season captaining the Kazakh national team at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A on home ice. He helped the team win the tournament and earn promotion to the top-16 nations for the next Worlds.

But in the summer of 2019 he decided to hang up his skates definitely and for good after a career that saw him appear in the NHL during five seasons (156 games) for Ottawa, Chicago, Boston, Anaheim, Nashville and Tampa before playing KHL and international hockey in Kazakhstan between 2010 and 2019 (with a one-year time-out from hockey).

He returned to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he once graduated to start working in real estate. In honour of his long-time team in Kazakhstan, he even named one company he founded Barys and another one KHL. And one year later he does not just work in Grand Forks but has become the mayor in the city that hosted the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship and the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

“When you put five months of work in, you’ve got to be excited about this result,” Bochenski was quoted by the Grand Forks Herald in what reminded the media representatives of a post-game interview. “I just think the town was ready for a change, and that’s the biggest attribute that we brought to it, was the change and the change for the better.”
In his candidacy the newcomer said he’s not easily scared and quoted Theodore Roosevelt, who once said: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

Bochenski knows the arena will – also in Grand Forks. Before playing for many years in the NHL, AHL and then KHL he was a college hockey star for the University of North Dakota.

For Bochenski it’s a big change after cherishing the opportunity for playing the game he loves as a profession even as far as away as Kazakhstan and becoming a citizen and national team player – and captain – there.

“It’s something I never imagined but I’m grateful for this opportunity. It’s a pretty big responsibility and a pretty big honour when another country makes that offer to you and I’ve been accepted,” Dietz told in May 2019.

“It feels good. I’ve been here a long time. They gave me a lot of respect and a lot of responsibility to be the captain,” he said. “I came here originally only expecting to be here for a two-year contract and nine years later it’s my second home.”

Even though that meant at times living over 9,000 kilometres (5,700 miles) away from his family. “You make the most of it. There’s nothing you can’t have here that you can have back home. It’s pretty much the same, people are friendly, a pretty good lifestyle. When I go back to the U.S. I just miss my friends here and many good restaurants.”

Now the man from Blaine, Minnesota, has found his new home in Grand Forks, and the former hockey player and real estate developer can now look forward to a very new career as a political newcomer after beating his competitors in the vote including Mike Brown, who had served as mayor since 2000.