When you are chasing dreams sometimes the road can lead to unexpected destinations. For Falmouth native John Muse, his goal of one day playing in the National Hockey League lead him to sign internationally this week.
“I’m going to have to learn at least a few Mandarin phrases, I guess,” he joked on Monday after putting in his morning workout at Advanced Performance Training at the Falmouth Ice Arena. “Just enough to get by.”
The goaltender might need to invest in a Rosetta Stone program because he has agreed to terms to play for Kunlun Redstar of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The KHL is considered one of the premier leagues in the world, comparable to the American Hockey League. Some experts believe it is the second best league in the world, behind only the NHL. With the league just entering its second decade of existence, the KHL has grown fast. The 24-team league has clubs in Belarus, China, Finland, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Kunlun Red Star is located in Beijing, China. The team formed in 2016 and is entering its fourth year in the league. Red Star plays in the Eastern Conference and is a member of the Chernyshev division. The KHL is divided into two conferences, east and west, with two divisions inside of each conference. Like the NHL, the top eight in each conference earn postseason spots and play off in best-of-seven game series. The winner of the championship is awarded the Gagarin Cup.
Muse, who celebrated his 31st birthday last weekend, is taking his trek to China in stride and said that he sees it as just another step along the way. His ultimate goal, to play in the NHL, has not changed. He said the opportunity to have more playing time and to show what he is capable of was what convinced him that this was the right decision this time around after his contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization expired.
“I got a text on Saturday morning, saying their starting goalie got injured, and I figured it was a good opportunity there for me. I haven’t ever played overseas, so it’s good to get over there with that opportunity and show that I can play,” he said. “I’m looking at this as go over, play good hockey and further my career... if you go over there and play well over there you can come back and play here still.”
The promise of a chance to show what he could do in the Pittsburgh organization never became a reality. He split time between the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers and the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins throughout the 2018-19 season. Playing in 21 games in Wheeling, he posted a 7-14 record with an .878 save percentage and 3.40 goals against average. In the AHL he was 6-4 in 10 games, with a .906 save percentage and 3.00 goals against.
Muse’s stint with Kunlun will be his 12th professional team. Before turning pro in 2010 he won two national championships at Boston College.
“I’m in the same position every summer, regardless of how I play, I’m put in that same position. I’m hoping that this enables me to show that I can play at the highest level, one of the highest levels. The KHL is good hockey, they have a lot of very good players.”
While the Cape Cod native said he is looking forward to seeing the other side of the world, he is treating this as a business trip first and foremost.
“I’m excited to get over there and play and show that I can keep playing,” he said.