Living North | Ice hockey breaking the ice

Breaking the Ice

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Local boy Liam Kirk always dreamt of a career in ice hockey, now having been drafted for the Arizona Coyotes, he is not only one step closer to his dream, but has also become the first player born and trained in England to be drafted by National Hockey

At only 18, Liam Kirk has put England on the map for ice hockey, by becoming the 189th player to be drafted this year by the National Hockey League, for the Arizona Coyotes. Despite an immediate move across the pond in June on the day after being drafted, Liam had already enjoyed a two year stint with one of Yorkshire’s most successful teams – the Sheffield Steelers. 

Starting out with skating at the tender age of three Liam admits, ‘as soon as I stepped foot on the ice, I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.’ Liam took up the sport just a year later to follow in his brother’s footsteps. ‘He started playing after going to see a Steelers match,’ says Liam. ‘And once I was old enough, I was determined to join too – I wanted to be just like him.’ Liam was lucky – taking to the ice naturally, he was able to begin training weekly in Sheffield by playing for a local junior team. At 16, Liam was signed by the Sheffield Steelers and quickly became a pro on the ice. Despite his own hard work to reach the stage he’s at today, Liam puts a lot of his success in the sport down to his parents dedication too. ‘My family sacrificed a lot so my brother and I could play,’ he says. ‘We trained every week and were always playing games, and they were there without fail to run us back and forth.’ 

Being drafted by the NHL for the Arizona Coyotes consideration has seen a very quick transition for Liam – from playing for the Steelers in his local town to playing at camp in America, all within 48 hours. ‘The juniors from Canada and America are of a much higher standard compared to England,’ Liam admits. ‘But having played pro back at home, the adjustment hasn’t been too bad for me.’ This difference in standards could be why so few English players are making it big in the American leagues. Liam has faced some changes to the more practical side of the game too. ‘The ice is smaller out in America, which means the game is much faster. Everything is happening a lot quicker than it does at home, so you have to keep your game tight – there’s less room to make mistakes.’

Whilst being drafted has been an emotional ride for Liam and his family, it has been a long-term dream. Although playing for the Arizona Coyotes is not yet a reality, Liam has spent two weeks training  where he spent the majority of his time on the ice. ‘The organisation was amazing,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be, the coaches were amazing too.’ After an exciting two-week stint in America, Liam is now set to fly over to Canada to play in the Ontario Hockey League for the Peterborough Petes. Liam insists that without believing in himself to date, he wouldn’t have been presented with the opportunities he has. ‘If it’s something you really want, then be prepared to be committed – it may involve making sacrifices, but it will always be worth it in the end.’ 

 

Get Your Skates On

If Liam’s success has puck-ered you up, then try your hand at the fast and furious, full-contact team sport – the fastest team game in the world – with one of our hot, cold spots, no matter what your level of ability 

Bradford Ice Hockey
Slide along to the beginners training session on Wednesdays at 5:30pm, where you’ll be taught basic skating alongside games skills. The only skill required of you is being able to skate forwards and stop! There’s no restrictions on age, or any need to book – just turn up 15 minutes before hand. 
www.bradfordicearena.co.uk

Ice Sheffield 
Learn to Skate Hockey offers a fantastic introduction to would-be ice hockey players, focusing on the style of skating needed to successfully transition to play ice hockey. Learn new skills and progress through the three ice hockey development grades. Start with Learn to Skate Hockey on Thursdays at 7:00pm, until you graduate and move to the Learn Play programme. 
www.siv.org.uk

Hull Arena 
Choose from a variety of ice skating, Learn to Skate and ice hockey sessions open to the public. Attend a half hour weekly session, everything from the basics upwards with one of their professional ice skating coaches. Adult only sessions, open to all abilities take place on Tuesdays at 8.15pm.
www.hcandl.co.uk

Published in: September 2018

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