ETHAN HEHIR may prove to be among the youngest recruits for the beginning of Leeds Chiefs’ inaugural season, but coach Sam Zajac expects him to have a lasting impact on fans.
The 18-year-old is the latest name to be unveiled by the Elland Road club as it gears up for its NIHL National campaign which launches with a trip to Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs on September 15.
His signing, after coming up through the ranks of hometown team Billingham Stars, shows Zajac’s intention to try and achieve the right blend of youth and experience.
In terms of senior hockey, Hehir clocked up 51 games for the Stars in NIHL One over the past couple of seasons, racking up 39 points, including 12 goals.
The teenager should expect a step up in standard on a weekly basis with the formation of the new league the Chiefs find themselves in, but Zajac – who came face-to-face with him on a number of occasions while playing for Whitley Bay last season – expects Hehir to take that all in his stride.
“I was surprised playing against him last year with how much he came on through the course of the season,” said player-coach Zajac.
He’s tenacious and was always a real handful to play against – that is the kind of reputation you want to be building and it makes him an ideal player to have.Sam Zajac on Leeds Chiefs’ latest recruit, Ethan Hehir
“He had a big impact whenever he came on for a shift and it was noticeable every time he was out there.
“He’s tenacious and was always a real handful to play against – that is the kind of reputation you want to be building and it makes him an ideal player to have.”
Zajac said Hehir would help his attempt to establish the right blend on his first Chiefs roster.
“It’s important to get the balance right in terms of youth and experience,” added Zajac. “You want the older guys to set the tempo and lead by example, while the younger guys add the energy and enthusiasm.
“With Ethan, I think by the end of the season he’ll have become a real fan favourite because they are going to see a young guy who plays the right way and puts himself about.
“He will get the fans out of their seats with his skill and his tenacity and that will give the rest of the boys a lift too.”