Liam Kirk says he’s a different player to the one that left Sheffield Steelers two and a half years ago as he prepares to take part in the NIHL Spring Cup.
The 21-year-old – the first Englishman to be drafted in the NHL – returns to play competitive hockey on these shores when he’ll ice for Sheffield Steeldogs in their double header with Swindon Wildcats this week.
And in a COVID-affected year that has seen his return to OHL side Peterborough Petes perennially delayed and a brief spell in Sweden, he’s looking forward to being back home.
“I’m really excited to be back playing, especially with the circumstances everyone’s in around the world,” he said. “Things have fell into place for me timing wise and it’s a good fit for me to play with the Steeldogs.
“I think I’m a completely different to the one that left the Steelers two and half years ago. Of course, I haven’t played as much as I would like in the last year, but I’ve gained a lot of experience and feel a lot more developed.
“I’m keen to show what I’ve learned since I left and I’ve had a lot of support from fans all over the country, so it will be exciting to be back in a Steeldogs shirt for the first time since I was 16/17.
“It’ll be a little different now playing with the likes of Jono (Phillips) and Ben (O’Connor) compared to my Steelers days, but I’ve got a lot more experience under my belt.”
Kirk summed up his last year as he continues to wait for the call from Ontario that he can return and resume his career which will hopefully lead to the NHL.
But he remains focussed ‘The Big Show’ is where he wants to be and despite events of the last year, nothing has dissuaded him from wanting to go out and achieve it.
“The last 12 months has been pretty crazy for me, but my goal is still for me to get to the NHL and earn a contract,” he added. “Arizona still want me and the best place for me to be is in Peterborough.
“Starting the OHL this season has been difficult because they keep setting dates then keep having to delay.
Your @BradfieldBrew Steeldogs are back in action at @ice_sheffield on Sunday February 14th against @SwinWildcats in the Spring Cup.
You can only enjoy the game online – book your ticket now
🎟 https://t.co/dfw0esa0cK pic.twitter.com/6bM6mPv9cH
— Sheffield Steeldogs (@SteeldogsIHC) February 7, 2021
“So I made the decision to go out and find somewhere to play and I ended up in Sweden with Hanhals, which was a wonderful experience and had a great time.
“I came back to England in December expecting to be heading to Canada, but it never came so it gave me a few options.
“One was the possibility of the Elite League starting in some form, which wasn’t to be, but this Streaming Series and Spring Cup came about and I’m pleased to be involved.
“We’re still waiting to hear when we can play in the OHL and once that’s been confirmed, I’ll be heading over there.
“I’ve actually been training with the Steeldogs once a week, as they have ice as an ‘elite status’ and my plan was to get involved with the Elite League, if something was to come of that.
“There was mutual interest and we agreed and I’m looking forward to getting involved again.”