IT says something about how committed to the Leeds Chiefs cause Joe Coulter is that he is willing to uproot and head just under 165 miles south to pursue his part-time hockey career with a brand new team.
The 24-year-old forward is the latest player to be unveiled by the West Yorkshire club ahead of their inaugural season in NIHL National which gets underway in just over a month’s time when they visit Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs in what is the curtain-raising fixture for the 2019-20 season.
It will be almost another two months before Coulter and his Chiefs team-mates will be able to skate out onto their own Elland Road ice for the first time in a competitive fixture when, again, they will take on the Steeldogs on Sunday, November 3.
But it is the lure of playing and practicing in that brand new facility that is helping Zajac convince players to join the new venture.
Born in Dumfries, close to the rink where he has played his entire career for Solway Sharks, Coulter’s game took a noticeable step up during the last two seasons, particularly last year when he produced a career-best 60-point haul, including 13 goals, from 50 games.
It was this offensive production together with his personality off the ice that persuaded Zajac to make an approach.
It shows me these guys are willing to make the sacrifices and leave behind everything they have back home to make that step up to the next level.Leeds Chiefs’ player-coach, Sam Zajac on forward Joe Coulter
“It is a big ask for players from far away to relocate to Leeds,” said Zajac. “Especially at this level you need to try and find a guy who has got a job where they can be quite flexible. Joe’s a personal trainer, so that kind of trade will follow him wherever.
“It shows me these guys are willing to make the sacrifices and leave behind everything they have back home to make that step up to the next level.
“It’s a massive plus when someone says they are prepared to do that and you can see how fully committed to it they are.”
Zajac said he was confident that Coulter would prove influential both on and off the ice.
“I’ve known Joe for a while and he’s a really good personality,” added Zajac. “He’s loud and vocal and the kind of guy who will engage well with fans.
“So he’ll be great in that respect – but I’m expecting him to be great on the ice too.”