Having started to establish himself with the Detroit Red Wings, Andreas Athanasiou suffered a career setback when new contract talks began to stall with the franchise. During his brief period as a free agent, the ice hockey center seriously considered plying his trade in Europe instead.

Talking to The Athletic a year later, Athanasiou revealed that he was fully prepared to sign with HC Lugano, the Swiss team he’d been training with if an offer elsewhere hadn’t come in: “You had to be. The situation it was, it was going to end up one way or end up the other, and you had to be ready both ways, whether you like it or not. So it was maybe Russia, maybe in Switzerland, whatever it was going to be.”

However, Athanasiou was swayed to stay in Detroit by an unlikely source: HC Lugano’s coach Greg Ireland. “I said, ‘Listen, whether it’s playing in Russia or playing in this league, it’s not the NHL,'” Ireland said. “You want to play in the NHL. Don’t turn your back on it for a year, because once you do, then you’re a KHL player, you’re a Swiss league player … But your job is to play at the highest level, and my advice to you is come here, skate every day and when the contract gets done, get ready.” The Canadian subsequently took this advice and returned to the Red Wings.

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