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Former Kings Stumpel and Dallman find new home in the Kontinental Hockey League

October 28, 2009 |  1:56 pm

Jozef Kevin Dallman figured he’d play one year for Barys Astana of the Kontinental Hockey League “to prove myself” and then try to go back to the NHL.

The former King defenseman liked the league, the team and Kazakhstan's capital of Astana so much, he returned for a second season and was appointed the team’s captain.

Jozef Stumpel, another former King, didn’t know where to go after the Florida Panthers made it clear he wasn’t part of their plans. The Slovakian-born center, who played for the Kings from 1997-98 into the 2001-02 season and again in 2003-04, also landed with Barys Astana and is enjoying his second season there.

“It’s more creative hockey. There’s not so much hitting,” Stumpel said of the KHL, a descendant of the Russian Superleague and Soviet Championship League. “The travel is the same as the States, maybe a little tougher. Some teams are really far, but some teams are closer.”

Reached this week by telephone in Moscow, where Barys played Atlant Mytishchi, both said they’ve enjoyed their experience in a league they said is making big gains not only in size but in quality of play. A glance at the rosters finds a number of names familiar to NHL fans.

“The league’s really good. There’s a lot of guys coming over from North America, and the play is skilled and fast,” said Dallman, who played 87 games for the Kings in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. “It’s a big ice surface, so there’s lots of time with the puck. The good thing is you don’t get hit as much.”

Each team plays 56 games in a season that starts in September and ends in early March. The schedule includes breaks so players can play for their national teams.

“And if you’ve got some injuries, you get time to heal,” Stumpel said. “Right now this league is pretty good. It’s tough to compete with the NHL yet because the NHL has been operating for so many years. In a few years here we’ll get more quality players and it will be pretty good in relation to the NHL.”

Dallman’s wife and two young children joined him in Astana in August. They live in a complex with the families of other players, and the kids attend preschool and kindergarten with children of U.S. Embassy employees. Dallman said both of his kids are picking up Russian quickly.

“They’re enjoying it, and we’re all having fun,” he said. “The fans here are unbelievable. All of our games are sold out. Our rink holds about 6,000, but they’re as loud as 17,000.”

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Former Kings center Jozef Stumpel handles the puck during a game against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 26, 2000. Credit: Jon Freilich / Associated Press