By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | October 9, 2021
Liam Kirk misses his home country of England, his girlfriend, Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken and the familiarity of his hometown, but he’s ready to start the season with the Arizona Coyotes.
Drafted 189th overall in 2018 by the Arizona Coyotes, Kirk is the first English-born and -trained player to sign an NHL contract. On June 18, he inked a three-year entry-level contract with the ’Yotes.
Inspired to play hockey by his brother, Jonathan, in Maltby, England, Kirk has been chasing the NHL dream since his debut on the ice with the Sheffield Steelers.
“My brother played,” he says. “He’s five years old than me. My mom and dad used to watch the Steelers. They loved it as fans. My brother is important to me. I did what he did and fell in love with the game.”
From there, he crossed the pond to play for the Peterborough (Canada) Petes, best known for producing Wayne Gretzky.
“The AHL is the league right below it,” says Kirk, referencing the Peterborough Petes’ league. “It’s a feeder system with feeder teams. Since I got drafted, I’ve come over here and adapted my game to more of a North American-type style of hockey.
“It would have been nice to do that last year, but I couldn’t because of COVID. It’s good to get back and be in Arizona.”
The Coyotes start their season away, at Columbus on October 14, and head home for the Gila River Arena’s first game of the season against St. Louis on October 18.
Kirk arrived in Glendale as part of the new wave of Coyotes players. Veterans like Darcy Kuemper, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland were traded away for younger players.
Kirk sees the benefit in that.
“It’s definitely nice to know you’re not the only one who’s new to the situation, the league and the team,” Kirk says. “I can turn to the guys who have been there before for advice. It’s nice to go through it with people who are a similar age.”
On the Coyotes, Kirk has bonded with Mitch Eliot, the son of former LA Kings and Detroit Red Wings star Darren Eliot. The two may live together this season.
Besides watching movies and eating out with friends and his girlfriend, Alisha, back home, Kirk enjoys the freedom of hockey.
“When you’re out there for one or two hours on the ice, you’re away from everything else that’s going on in the world,” Kirk says. “You’re in your own little hockey environment. The game is so fun, too. There are so many passionate fans.
“It’s especially fun to skate hard in front of a packed arena. There’s no better feeling than playing this game and having success with it.”
The 21-year-old forward admits he still has a lot to learn, but he’s looking up to players like Jakob Chychrun, Christian Fischer, Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel to learn.
“I want to become a regular NHL player,” he says. “I like to produce offense and give great scoring chances not only for myself but my teammates. That’s something I’d like to translate to an NHL level.”