Vause finds a home in Austria

Taylor Vause (centre) is now in his fifth season with the Vienna Capitals. STEVEN MAH/SOUTHWEST BOOSTER FILE PHOTO

Former Swift Current Broncos captain Taylor Vause has found another home across the Atlantic Ocean. The Calgary native is in the midst of his fifth season with the Vienna Capitals as he now considers the capital city of Austria a third home.

“Calgary is my hometown, that’s where I’m from, born and raised. Swift Current became my second home and now this is my third home. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had experiences in my career that I’ve been able to make a place that I play in have that home feel. I met my fiancé here and she is from here. That makes it feel that much more like a third home for me.”

Vause suited up for the Broncos in parts of five seasons from 2007-12. He captained the Broncos in his final season when he finished with 83 points in 72 games. He eventually played three seasons in the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League with the Texas Stars, Idaho Steelheads, Adirondack Flames, and Colorado Eagles.

Vause jumped to the EBEL in 2015 when he joined HC Bolzano in Italy for one season before finding a home in Austria in 2016.

Vause had seven goals and 18 assists in 34 games this season, including a shorthanded goal in a 6-5 shootout win over HC Innsbruck on Saturday. The league did have a two-week shutdown in the fall when COVID-19 cases began to rise within a few teams. They were able to resume play in mid-November. “Since then we haven’t had any stoppages. I think we’ve had maybe a case or two here and there throughout the league where there were some question marks whether teams could play their games and they just played it safe and ended up cancelling the games,” he explained.

Austria is currently in the midst of its third lockdown, which was recently extended until February 8. Vause said that during lockdown the country is limited to almost only medical services, grocery stores, and gas stations. They are allowed to go outside to go for a walk or to exercise outdoors.

“For us it’s basically to the rink and back and groceries and back. We want to be as careful as we can and as smart with it as we can. We want to hopefully be part of the solution even in small way if we can be.”

Vause said that in the midst of the season, with games almost every other day, that life hasn’t actually changed that drastically. No fans are currently allowed in the stands in Austria. Vause said at this point the players are thankful to be playing hockey at all.

“We know as hockey players that your career can take a turn for the worst or turn pretty quickly with an injury or something serious. You go into the end of last season and there was a sense where you just don’t know what’s going to happen. There was just so much uncertainty and it was so abrupt. ‘Is hockey going to happen next season?’”

“On a certain level we just need to be happy that we’re playing. We’re lucky to be playing hockey right now, especially under the circumstances. You see what’s going on out there and we definitely feel fortunate to be playing hockey. From our side, making a paycheck and getting paid this year, there’s a lot of people that are out of jobs from the industry of hockey and other sports as well. We’re luck to be playing. We’ll take advantage of that opportunity and make the best of a very unique year.”

The league is comprised of 11 teams, including eight from Austria. There are also teams from Slovakia, Hungary, and Italy. Each team usually features around 10 imports, but this season that number is significantly lower due to the pandemic. The Capitals currently sit fourth in the standings with a 16-10-5-3 record.

His best season came in 2018-19 when he registered 45 points in 49 games. Vause added 20 points in 18 playoff games as the Capitals won the league title.

“The first year we had here was just an incredible year. We went on a great run and ended up winning the championship. Any time you can do that in a place and an amazing city like this this, we’ve got a great set up facility. We live right next to the rink, I can actually see it from my apartment. There’s so many advantages to being in a city like this and having the setup that we do. I just have loved the experience over in Europe and to be doing it in a city like Vienna and having the experiences that I have it’s been awesome.”

Vause noted that contracts in Europe are dealt with on a more year-by-year basis. “I hope to be here as long as I can and there’s also that hope of getting to the highest level and moving up as much as you can. But Vienna’s been an awesome spot for me. The hope is that I can just keep doing what I’m doing, playing in the city that I love, and it’s pretty convenient that my fiancé is from here, living here. We’ve got a pretty good setup and I’m definitely loving being in Vienna.”

It’s been almost a decade since Vause wore a Broncos jersey, but he said he hasn’t changed too much on the ice.

“The type of player I am, the type of person I am is that I try and bring that 100 percent effort every night. I’m not necessarily going to have the best game or feel the best every night, but I’m going to leave it all out there. I think that’s what I showed in junior and has kept me playing in pro is my work ethic and the way I play the game.”

Vause said he still relies on his speed, which helps in the more open European game.

“I’m maybe not as much of a goal scorer as I once was, but definitely try and keep the playmaking ability as a big part of my game. Being a good guy in the defensive zone and also penalty killing, leaving it all out there and trying to be contributing in all areas would hopefully be the best thing that I can provide.”

Vause played his entire WHL career in Swift Current, following in his dad’s footsteps, who also played for the Broncos. They were both in the building on May 13, 2018 when the Broncos clinched a league championship with a 3-0 win over the Everett Silvertips.

“I just know how deserving the community of Swift Current is for supporting the team for so many years. In reality it is a challenge being in a small community trying to go up against some of the bigger dogs. It was just such a great experience. I came with my dad, we drove down from Calgary after my season. We got to have that experience together. I sat with my billets, part of the game was with my dad and part of the game was with my billet parents. It was just such a special moment to share with those people that I love so much. I saw so many people that I’d seen throughout my years, some guys I played with, some guys I just knew as fans. It was just awesome to go back and see the team have such a successful run.

“I always followed the Broncos whether they’re winning or losing, but being there for something like that was, everyone in that building will always remember that, it was pretty awesome to see.”

With his life limited to at the rink and at his apartment, Vause has more time to devote to his other passion of design.

“A lot of my work has been with the Broncos or junior teams in general. When hockey is not happening they’re not in need of designs on that side. I’ve kept busy with some side work here for a local men’s league team this summer. At the start of December I had a lot of inquiries for some design work. Even though it’s not hockey related, I love the hockey stuff because I can combine my love for design and hockey, but it’s nice to see that I’m getting some inquiries that are not hockey related and being able to transition to a portfolio that’s not just hockey driven.”

Through his company Full Stride Designs, Vause has created 17 different jerseys worn in five different leagues,

Vause said a few of his jersey designs that he has been able to do for the Broncos stick out, including two jerseys that he designed and wore while playing for the Broncos.

“For me to take it from an idea in my head to work on the computer to a physical jersey, that’s always a cool process for me. To be able to wear it as well was pretty awesome.”

His black and red jersey worn by the Broncos in a 6-0 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Remembrance Day of 2017 also sticks out.

“I just love how that one turned out and what it represents as well, it’s pretty special. I think that’s what brings different significance to a lot of my designs is that they have some meaning behind them. Same thing with the Broncos Strong jersey, there’s just so much significance behind it.”

Helping the Capitals win another league title is his focus for now, but Vause has put some thought into life after hockey.

“I’ve known for awhile that after hockey design is in my future. I don’t know necessarily in what capacity that will be… In the end I know I have a very close connection with design, I’ve always had the love and passion for it. I think I’ve been fortunate throughout my life that I’ve always know what I wanted to do, which was when I was young the dream was to play pro hockey and that’s what I’m doing right now, so I’m fortunate to have that come to fruition. After hockey I know that in some capacity design will be my future where I’m moving towards.”