Adam Barnes hoping home comforts can help Leeds Knights’ NIHL National charge

ADAM BARNES is confident some overdue “home comforts” can help turn Leeds Knights into a genuine NIHL National contender next season.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 7:01 am
Forward Adam Barnes is excited about working with Leeds Knights head coach and GM Dave Whistle. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Forward Adam Barnes is excited about working with Leeds Knights head coach and GM Dave Whistle. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The skilled 21-year-old forward has taken what for him he feels was an obvious decision to continue his career in West Yorkshire having been part of the Leeds Chiefs team that first brought hockey to the city back in 2019.

Like a number of other players from that roster, Barnes was signed up and ready to play for the 2020-21 season, only for those plans to be scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, a lot has changed in terms of the hockey landscape at Elland Road - new owner, new head coach, new team name and, just as importantly for Barnes, a near-completed rink they can truly call home.

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Leeds Knights' head coach and GM, Dave Whistle.

There may have only been a few weeks in which they were able to play at Elland Road towards the end of the Chiefs’ inaugural season but, for Barnes, it was ample time to see how much potential there was for the club.

By the time the pandemic brought an abrupt halt to the season in mid-March, the Chiefs were already attracting crowds of around 700 - more than some of its longer-established second-tier rivals.

And while some work still needs to be completed ahead of the hoped-for September start date for NIHL National teams, Barnes is itching to get playing in front of home fans again, having experienced the racket made when the building was only a quarter-full.

“We didn’t even come close to filling that building because it wasn’t anywhere near finished,” said Barnes.

SHARP-SHOOTER: Adam Barnes finished as Leeds Chiefs' top points-scorer in the 2019-20 NIHL National season, adding 24 asssists to his 26 goals in 47 games. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“But, even with just a few hundred people in, it was still incredibly loud - they made a heck of a lot of noise. So if we even start getting it half full, maybe three-quarters full, it will be such an amazing atmosphere in there and that should hopefully make the team play even better.

“And for me, as a player, when the crowd is all behind you, it kind of gives you a bit of an adrenaline rush and you just want to go out and score or create that next goal.

“It is always nice to score a goal in front of your home fans - it gives you an extra jump in your step.”

There are already enough reasons for Barnes to have that ‘jump’ in his step, with the former Bradford Bulldogs junior looking on admiringly when Steve Nell took on ownership of the club in April.

BATTLE AND COMPETE: Adam Barnes, right, jostles for possession against Sheffield Steeldogs' Thomas Barry. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Already excited by the fact a proven hockey man in Nell was now running the organisation, the appointment of Dave Whistle as head coach and GM convinced Barnes even more that his decision to remain in Leeds was the right one.

“It’s a real blessing that Steve has come along,” added Barnes. “He knows what he is doing and obviously has a lot of experience down in Swindon.

“It just makes me excited about getting to know him more and to see what kind of organisation he’s going to develop in Leeds.

“And I think just the fact that we’ll have a fully-finished rink will help us feel more like a proper hockey team, with a place we can all our own.”

Barnes had come to the Chiefs in the summer of 2019 on the back of a full season in the Elite League with Manchester Storm.

In what was a difficult campaign for a varied reasons, he ended the season as the Chiefs; top points scorer, with 26 goals and 24 assists in 47 appearances.

It was an impressive return in a team constantly short on numbers and which, as a result, struggled for scoring.

It’s the kind of overall performance that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the incoming head coach, either.

“I’m looking for a lot of offense from Adam this year,” said Whistle, who is due to arrive in the UK within the next two weeks.

“He was able to get over a point a game and lead the team in scoring.

“He is only 21-years-old so, hopefully, he has gained a lot of confidence for himself to keep improving.

“I’ve heard plenty of good things about him, that he is a good skater a really good team-mate.

“I want every player working hard in both ends of the ice and he fits the bill as a go-to player for us this year.”