Coach Sam Zajac aiming to realise ‘huge potential’ of new National League ice hockey team in Leeds

Sam Zajac, centre, while playing for Manchester Storm last season. Picture courtesy of Victoria Schofield.
Sam Zajac, centre, while playing for Manchester Storm last season. Picture courtesy of Victoria Schofield.
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NEWLY-APPOINTED player-coach Sam Zajac believes there is “massive potential” for Leeds’ new ice hockey team once it gets up and running in September.

The 29-year-old defenceman was unveiled as the team’s player-coach by rink operators Planet Ice yesterday and is already busy recruiting a roster for the 2019-20 season which will see Leeds ice a team in the newly-formed National League.

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Effectively the second tier of the British game, it is a level Zajac is familiar with, having spent the last few years playing for, the likes of Telford, Tigers and Whitley Warriors.

MEET THE BOSS: Sam Zajac, player-coach of Leeds' new ice hockey team which will play in the new National League in 2019-20., Picture courtesy of Al Goold/Glasgow Clan/EIHL.

MEET THE BOSS: Sam Zajac, player-coach of Leeds' new ice hockey team which will play in the new National League in 2019-20., Picture courtesy of Al Goold/Glasgow Clan/EIHL.

It is from his hometown club Whitley that Zajac has made the switch to Leeds, having gained some valuable coaching experience as an assistant under former GB international David Longstaff, who has run the Warriors for the last four seasons.

Zajac admits he will be embarking on a steep learning curve as a coach, but says the lure of a blank canvas at a new club playing out of a brand new rink was a major attraction.

“Coaching is something I’ve always been keen on, the tactical side, the man-management side and I’ve played for a lot of coaches over the years,” said Zajac.

“You’ve got to try and take the best bits from each of them. Yes, it will be a big learning curve but it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

There is massive potential for a team here. The sky really is the limit. Everybody is pulling in the same direction and has the same vision for where they think the club can go.

Leeds’ player-coach Sam Zajac

Zajac said he hoped to announce a number of signings soon, with the emphasis on playing an entertaining brand of hockey designed to try and pack out the 2,000-capacity Elland Road venue.

“The fact it was in Leeds was another huge draw for me,” added Zajac.

“There is massive potential for a team here.

“The sky really is the limit. Everybody is pulling in the same direction and has the same vision for where they think the club can go.

ICE, ICE BABY: An artist's impression of how the new ice rink on Elland road will look once completed this summer.

ICE, ICE BABY: An artist's impression of how the new ice rink on Elland road will look once completed this summer.

“There will be ups and downs but, hopefully, in a short period of time we’ll be able to sell the place out, have a really good product and a good buzz around the club.”