High hopes for pre­mier league

StarMetro Edmonton - - SPORTS - Neil David­son Com­mis­sioner “thrilled” by di­verse group. More at thes­tar.com/soc­cer

Nik Ledger­wood went to Europe in 2003 in search of soc­cer em­ploy­ment. He was 18, ex­cited and a lit­tle scared.

“It was all those kind of emo­tions. You didn’t know what to ex­pect go­ing there,” he re­called. “To be on trial, if you speak to any player, it’s a weird, un­com­fort­able ex­pe­ri­ence. You have to fit into this team at­mos­phere, you don’t know any of the play­ers or the coach. You don’t speak the lan­guage.”

The 33-year-old Ledger­wood ended up play­ing more than dozen years in Ger­many and Swe­den be­fore re­turn­ing to his na­tive Al­berta.

Now, as one of the Cana­dian Pre­mier League’s first sign­ings, the de­fen­sive mid­fielder who has won 50 caps for Canada is look­ing to help oth­ers start their ca­reers at home. Join­ing Cal­gary’s Cav­alry FC is more than a job for him.

“I think peo­ple are go­ing to un­der­es­ti­mate how big of an im­pact this league will have on soc­cer in Canada — for the youth grow­ing up, for all that next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers who want to aspire to be part of the na­tional team and play pro­fes­sional soc­cer,” said Ledger­wood, a na­tive of Leth­bridge.

“Once this gets up and run­ning, I think it will be the next big­gest thing for Cana­dian soc­cer play­ers be­cause we didn’t have any­thing be­fore.”

The CPL, set to kick off in April with seven found­ing clubs, an­nounced the sign­ing of Ledger­wood and nine other play­ers Thurs­day. The league has al­ready held a U-Sports draft, giv­ing top col­le­giate tal­ent the chance to make its squads.

TORONTO STAR

Nik Ledger­wood, seen in ac­tion against Belize, is one of Cana­dian Pre­mier League’s first sign­ings. The CPL an­nounced the sign­ing of 10 play­ers Thurs­day.

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