The rumor is true. Batman is moving to a new Gotham City, somewhere in Central Asia.
Goaltender Danny Battochio, tending net for the Rapid City Rush from his spectacular rookie year in 2009-2010 through an injury-comeback year last season , confirmed the move a day after his agent tweeted that the Lively, Ontario, native had come to terms with a team in Kazakhstan for 2013-2014.
“I just thought this year, I could get over there and try it out and see if I like it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve never been over to that side of the world,” Battochio said Saturday.
“I feel kind of good and healthy. The last couple years I’ve been dealing with more injuries than normal. You don’t know how many more years you have left to play the game. You kind of follow your body,” said Battochio, 27, whose nickname Batman dates back to his college hockey days with St. Francis Xavier University.
Battochio said leaving his only pro hockey home of the last four years was a tough call.
“It’s indescribable how great it’s been the last four years. I can’t imagine being as successful anywhere else. It was a hard decision, but in the end it’s something of an experience that I can use in later life,” he said.
Battochio said his agent, the United Kingdom-based 9 Hockey Management, asked him not to reveal the specific team he will be in net for next year.
He did say the team has been in its league finals the last four years, and currently has a majority of Russian and Czech Republic players on its roster.
Battochio said he may face a language barrier. The team’s head coach is Russian, but Battochio is unsure if he speaks English.
“I’ll have to take it upon myself to learn a little Russian too. It all comes with the experience of going there. I’ll be carrying a book around,” he said.
Battochio amassed a career 86-43-13 record in 154 regular season appearances with Rapid City. His Rush career goals-allowed average is 2.59, with a .912 saves percentage.
He earned CHL all-star, rookie of the year and all-rookie team status in backstopping the Rush to the 2010 Central Hockey League President’s Cup Championship. He was in net for all 12 of Rapid City’s playoff victories that year.
Other highlights, he said, included scoring only the sixth goaltender goal in CHL history against the Tulsa Oilers in a 2011 game, and his first game back from ACL surgery last November.
“I’ll never forget my first game back last year. You’d never get that anywhere else, that kind of ovation and salute from the crowd is something that’ll hang with you for the rest of your life. I’ve never heard it that loud in that building. It was a pretty special moment,” he said.
Battochio said his new team’s venue only seats about 800 fans, a far cry from the 5,119-seat capacity of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
One of the biggest memories is playing in that rink in front of the fans. It’s definitely going to be a change,” he said.
Battochio said he cherishes the many friendships from his time in the Black Hills. He hopes to maintain contact through social media once he leaves for his new team in late July.
“I’ve been happy and blessed to be a part of the Rush for four years. I couldn’t have asked for anything better here than to don that jersey,” he said.