From Moscow to Michigan: Artem Shlaine’s unconventional hockey journey

Senior Captain Artem Shlaine discusses his hockey journey and how he landed at NMU.
CAPTAIN — NMU hockeys #8 Artem Shlaine talks hockey and shares his journey.
CAPTAIN — NMU hockey’s #8 Artem Shlaine talks hockey and shares his journey.
Molly Birch

Embarking on a hockey journey that spans across continents, Artem Shlaine, a senior at Northern Michigan University, discovered his passion for the sport in the most unexpected way. Born in Russia, Shlaine’s passion for hockey was sparked at the age of four when he swapped figure skating for a pair of hockey skates.

He reflected on on his early days on the ice.

“I didn’t want to do figure skating, and my dad brought me the next day to the hockey school … I already knew how to skate and most of them didn’t,” Shlaine said. “I had an advantage. I was kind of on top, I liked it a lot right away, and that’s how it kind of started.”

Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics

Being recognized for his budding talent, a Moscow program extended an invitation to Shlaine. With his father out working and his mother tending to his newly born brother, daily 40-minute commutes to the rink became a normality, showcasing his family’s commitment to his dreams.

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“It was a tough decision for my parents. My dad was working, and my mom had my little brother … they sacrificed a lot of their time,” Shlaine said.

With Russia not offering a joint hockey and academic solution, Shlaine and his family then moved to the United States, where he found himself at the South Florida Hockey Academy. With half of Shlaine’s teammates being from all over Europe, the new environment helped him not only learn U.S. culture but many others as well.

“There were guys from Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland. I was from Russia … none of us really spoke good English, so we all got to … learn from each other’s culture and assimilate to U.S. culture. So that worked out well for me,” Shlaine said.

Shattuck St. Mary’s School, a North American hockey powerhouse, would extend an invitation to Shlaine for a lessened tuition rate. He would then spend the next two years of his career there as the move proved to be transformational, exposing Shlaine to incredible support that fueled his development drastically.

“Shattuck helped me tremendously, and now my brother goes there too and it helped him. The people, they care so much. They’re amazing,” Shlaine said.

Shlaine’s collegiate career started at the University of Connecticut for the 2020-21 season before transferring and finding his true home at Northern Michigan for the 2022-23 season. His decision wasn’t purely based on the style of hockey NMU had to offer, but instead a genuine sense of belonging which he felt from the coaching staff.

Molly Birch

“I talked to Grant, Nick and Byron. I saw right away that they care about the players they have … I have never questioned what would have happened if I would have stayed [UCONN],” said Shlaine on his transfer to NMU.

Shlaine isn’t just a force on the ice, off the ice he’s a hardworking scholar. During the 2021-22 season he made the Hockey East Conference All-Academic Team and showcased his dedication to both education and sport. He highlighted the academic differences between Connecticut and Michigan.

“It doesn’t really matter what school you go to, you can take the easiest class at Harvard or you can take the hardest class at Northern Michigan, it would be like the similar result,” said Shlaine. “Nobody cares what it says on the diploma. Everyone cares about connections and what you actually learn.”

Shlaine describes his playing style as being an all around player. After learning defensive structure in Russia and embracing Shattuck’s focus on skill, he is a well rounded player ready for any challenge on the ice.

“I’ve been to so many different programs and so many different situations … I kind of developed into an all around player,” Shlaine said. “At Northern, we also have structure, but you’re allowed to make plays and create offense … Grant allows us to play and be a hockey player.” 

Molly Birch

In 2020, Shlaine would see himself being selected by the New Jersey Devils in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL Draft going one hundred thirtieth  overall. Even in a virtual setting due to COVID-19, seeing his name on the screen validated years of hard work and sacrifice.

“I was in my freshman year at UConn, just moved into the dorms, just met the guys and we were all watching it in a dorm on TV, I was texting my parents,” Shlaine said. “I was looking and trying not to miss my name … and then my name pops on the screen, and all the guys are yelling and cheering. I looked it up, and it was real. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get drafted, and I’m really happy that I did.”

As a senior, his focus is on team success, driven by past near-misses and a strong desire to leave a lasting mark in college hockey. 

“My individual goal is bringing the best out of myself and consistent effort. I think our team goal is overall, just getting better and better. We’re focusing on the process, we’re not focusing on any results. If we focus on the process and do the things right consistently, then the results will come,” said Shlaine.

Artem Shlaine’s hockey story isn’t just about hockey, it’s also a story about sacrifice and resilience. From starting in Russia, to now being a senior at Northern Michigan, Shlaine is poised for more great moments and experiences in college hockey.

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