Kieran Brown sees Leeds as perfect place for his game and confidence to blossom
IT was just over 10 months ago that Kieran Brown first signed up to play in the NIHL National with Leeds.
A lot has changed since then.
The pandemic saw the subsequent 2020-21 season scrapped, while player-coach Sam Zajac – the man who convinced Brown his future lay in West Yorkshire following his decision to leave Sheffield Steelers after three seasons – will no longer be in charge when the 20-year-old winger does finally take to the ice at Elland Road Arena.
And, of course, Brown will never officially get to wear a Leeds Chiefs’ jersey, the name having already been consigned to the past by new team owner Steve Nell
The 2020-21 season hasn’t been without hockey entirely, of course, Brown managing to secure a roster spot for the five-team, behind-closed-doors Spring Cup with Telford Tigers, while he is currently icing for NIHL North 2 outfit Widnes Wild in the Three Rivers Cup.
But, despite all the upheaval of the past 15 months, Brown believes his ambitions remain in Leeds, much to the delight of Nell and, no doubt, the fans who hailed his signing first time around last July.
“There was never a doubt in my mind about signing for Leeds again,” said Brown, who like fellow 2021-22 signing Lewis Baldwin, is a product of the Bradford Bulldogs academy.
“It was just really unfortunate not to be able to play for them last season. Ever since it first came out that they were going to have a team, I’ve had it in my head that I wanted to play for Leeds.
“I’d start tomorrow if they asked me to. I’d be ready – I think all of us would be. I don’t want any more time off – we’ve had too long off already.
“I’ve been impressed with what Steve has had to say about his plans for the team – I just want to be a part of it and it fits in exactly with what I want to do with my career right now.
“For me, this season is about confidence. I feel like I have lacked a lot of confidence in the past couple of years, obviously not getting as much ice time as I’d have liked and not being given the chance to show what I can do.
“So I wanted to take a step away from the Elite League – I’m not sure for how long – just to get my confidence back, get scoring points regularly again and get back on track to being the kind of player I know I can be.”
Brown took the decision to move on after three years in South Yorkshire frustrated at his lack of ice time.
As the Spring Cup was coming to an end in March, Brown was picked up by Nottingham Panthers in the ‘Brit-Draft’ for the recently-finished Elite Series.
He later pulled out of the event, a decision which irked the Panthers’ organisation and prompted them to issue a highly-critical statement of Brown, only to swiftly tone it down in the wake of fierce criticism from fans, including some of their own.
Ultimately, the Panthers went on to lift the Elite Series trophy when wrapping up a 2-0 final series’ win over the Steelers at the National Ice Centre and while Brown retains ambitions of returning to the UK game’s top-flight at some point, he is first keen to enjoy success at Leeds. That is something Nell backs him to do.
“Like the other two guys we’ve signed, Kieran is someone who I didn’t want going anywhere else,” said Nell.
“He is one of the most talented up-and-coming players in the country – lots of teams wanted him but we’ve managed to get him.
“There are challenges for younger players at this level –but it is about him being consistent and becoming one of the best players in this league, night-in, night-out – that’s what we want him to become.”
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