Over the last several years, David Carter has had some memorable experiences on the field.
Playing in his first Olympic Games last summer is among the highlights, and this winter, Carter added to the list by becoming the first Canadian to play in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).
The 35 year-old native of Vancouver, British Columbia was signed by the Maybank Tigers for this year’s edition of the MHL, a league which has been in operation since 1985 and has recently begun to bring in international players in an effort to capitalize on the popularity of hockey around the world and the success of rival leagues such as the Hockey India League.
It is his first time playing club hockey overseas.
“Apart from the financial incentive of playing for Maybank and playing in the MHL, the bigger factor was to essentially knock an item off my bucket list,” he says from Malaysia. “I’ve done so many things I’ve wanted to do in my hockey career – from the Olympics, to the Pan Am Games, Commonwealth and World Cups – playing in overseas league is something I’ve wanted to do for a few years.”
Carter was the go-to-guy between the pipes for Canada’s men’s field hockey team in the three years leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games. He put in an all world performance at World League Round 3 in Argentina in June 2015, where Canada upset New Zealand in the quarterfinal, essentially earning a spot at the 2016 Olympics.
And it was at the Olympics this past summer where the Tigers’ coaching staff took note of his play, and in December the two parties ironed out an agreement to bring him to the MHL.
“I definitely think that the events of World League Round 3 (in 2015) and my Goaltender of the Year nomination (the same year) played a role in putting my name on the map for some of these leagues,” he explains. “This year, I think after the Olympics, I think they saw the opportunity to bring a recent Olympian to their side.”
Carter is no stranger to Malaysia, having competed in multiple editions of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, an annual competition held in Ipoh, and the Champions Challenge in Kuantan in 2014.
But the MHL experience has been a unique one for the Canadian net minder, who is one of only a few foreigners on a predominantly Malaysian team.
“I was very fortunate to come over not knowing who my fellow foreign players would be,” he says. “When I found there were two Aussies, I realized we had the English language in common and hopefully we could get along. But then, it turns out they’re great guys and we’ve forged quite a good bond.”
Carter spends a lot of his free time with the two Australians, but has been grateful for how he has been treated by the Malaysians on the team, after being nervous about how it would go, with Canada and Malaysia having had quite the on-field rivalry for decades.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say, nothing but great experiences from the team to the management and the staff,” he says. “All the players are so accommodating. They always want to pick your brain to see how you’re finding Malaysia and what it’s like back in Canada. They often use that time to work on their English, and they even lead team talks in English even though it’s their second language.”
It’s an experience that Carter won’t soon forget. And while he has knocked one more item off his bucket list, he also knows the importance of the experience when it comes to hockey.
“I think at first it was definitely more for the experience, just to really know what it was like to play in an overseas league,” he says of the decision to go to Malaysia. “But that being said, just being able to play 20 high level games in seven short weeks, it has been an invaluable experience in terms of the hockey, honing my skills, and getting myself ready for quite a busy international season.”
Carter has played every minute for the Tigers this season and will do so as the season comes to an end over the next weeks, before he heads back to Vancouver and joins his Canadian teammates as they prepare for the first competition of the year: World League Round 2 in Trinidad and Tobago from March 25-April 2.