Going the Distance


Alexis Ryan ’17 finds success playing professional women’s hockey in Budapest

It’s not every day that you get offered the opportunity to play professional sports in Europe. So, last year, when Alexis Ryan ’17 got the chance to continue her hockey career in Budapest, Hungary, she jumped at it. For the Arizona native who has been drawn farther and farther east in her hockey career, the hop across the pond was a natural next step.

A standout three-season athlete at Williston—winning the coveted Alumnae Bowl in her senior year in Easthampton—Ryan went to Middlebury College and continued finding success on the ice. When COVID-19 hit, Ryan returned home to Arizona—working for Amazon for a year—then hopped back on a plane to use her final year of eligibility at Middlebury. The end of her hockey career on the horizon, Ryan, along with teammate Madie Leidt, started sending out her tape to professional teams in Europe. Nothing was working out, though, until a hockey coach from the University of Vermont stepped in and put Ryan and Leidt in touch with the coach at KMH Budapest, Levente Szilagyi—or more simply, Coach Levi. “Budapest kind of fell into our laps, which was amazing,” Ryan says.

Ryan and Leidt inked their one-year contracts in July 2022 and, in September, they were on the plane to Budapest. So what is it like playing in Europe? “The hockey is very fast-paced, very physical, it’s a lot more chippy, which is a style of hockey that I love because I played against boys growing up,” she says. It helped that Ryan joined a perennial powerhouse. KMH Budapest won the European Women’s Hockey League championship the two years prior to Ryan’s arrival—then won again in Ryan’s first year. During the middle of the season, KMH Budapest competed in the European Union Super Cup in Germany, an experience that drove home to Ryan that she wasn’t in the U.S. anymore. “I had never seen that many people at a game in Europe,” Ryan recalls. “There was chanting, there were drums. It was just very high energy.”

Ryan’s goals going to Europe were simple—to play professionally and get in some sightseeing—but with the end of the season looming in the distance, her goals are growing again. “Once you get a little taste of European travel and just a different way of living, it’s hard to let go,” she says. “So I am planning on playing again next year.” Where is still to be determined; Ryan would take a spot again for KMH Budapest, or perhaps in another country—Germany, Spain, Sweden, Norway. Regardless of where she ends up, she wants to keep the dream alive. “I love living in a different culture,” she says, “and I realized that I’m not quite ready to give up hockey yet.”

Editor’s note: Since publication of this article, Ryan has re-signed with KMH Budapest for another season.