Liam Heelis talks with us about his thoughts on the upcoming season with the Glasgow Clan, the Playoff weekend in Nottingham and his education.
You’ve recently signed with the Glasgow Clan, are you nervous at all about playing for a team who were your rivals in your previous season?
I am definitely looking forward to start the upcoming season with Glasgow Clan and feel very fortunate for the opportunity to simultaneously pursue my PhD with our partners at Glasgow Caledonian University. Furthermore, the support of Pete Russell and Gareth Chalmers in being able to make this work is something I am very grateful for. For me, I am not nervous about the transition from the Fife Flyers to Glasgow, but rather I believe the word nervous can be re-framed as excited. I enjoyed my time in Fife and have nothing but respect for my former teammates, coaches, and the fans there. However, as I switch sides I look forward to playing against these guys and continuing the rival tradition that these two clubs share. They’re exciting games that are tons of fun to be a part of.
Completing your education is something that is important to you and you’ve fit it in to your love of hockey so well. Was the educational route always your plan?
That’s a good question, yes and no. As a kid growing up in Canada, I think it is every boys dream to play in the NHL someday, as it was mine. However, my parents always did a tremendous job grounding me and helping me shape more realistic and attainable goals. Going into my final year of minor hockey, I remember our coach making us write down our short-term and long-term goals. I specifically remember writing that I wanted to use hockey as a vehicle to obtain an education by gaining a scholarship. Thus, I wouldn’t say that the educational route was always my plan because I dreamt of the NHL, but as I have progressed I think combining hockey and education has been a great experience for me. For myself, they help to balance the other out, hockey is a great outlet away from school for a few hours, and school is a great place to direct my focus and energy away from the rink.
You’re studying Sports Psychology? Are your aims to get in to coaching and if so where would you like to coach?
Yes, I will be studying Sport Psychology. My aim is to keep my doors open as I have interest in three main areas: Teaching, Consulting, and Coaching after finishing all of my schooling. First, I would really like to become a professor at an academic institution and continue my research within sport to help make it a better place for all involved. Second, I am also interested in consulting and working in an applied setting with athletes, coaches, and parents to help better understand the importance of team dynamics and to also facilitate optimal group functioning. Lastly, I have a passion for coaching and leadership and would one day be excited about the opportunity to coach at an elite level in the hockey world.
After a year away from hockey during the 2016/17 season what made you return and especially to cross the Atlantic to Scotland?
I was forced to take the year away from playing hockey while finishing the second year of my masters at McGill as athletes are only eligible to play 5 seasons of canadian university hockey. However, that didn’t mean I took the year away from hockey itself, I actually hopped behind the bench as an assistant coach with the McGill Redmen focusing on video analysis. It was a great year for me to view the game from another angle and think about structures and playing in new innovative ways, which I think actually helped me out when returning to the ice this past season.
Ultimately, after finishing my masters I wanted to pursue the game at a professional level and began seeking out opportunities. I had some interest at the minor pro level in North America, however I felt that overseas best meshed with my lifestyle, interests, and style of play. The opportunities to play and simultaneously pursue further educational opportunities was an important key for me in making the decision to venture to the UK.
Fife made the playoffs last season and especially the playoffs weekend in Nottingham. How was your experience during this time and is this format better than your previous playoff experiences?
It was an unbelievable feeling to make the playoff weekend in Nottingham. The experience and aura around the rink was just outstanding. Having the chance to soak that in and be a part of an event of that magnitude was certainly very special. We only really got a taste, and now I am eager to earn another shot at that weekend. The format and experience is unlike any event I have ever been apart of. I have been to the Memorial Cup (CHL Finals), University Cup (USports Nationals), and the World University Games (FISU), but I have not experienced anything like that in my life. The fans, chants, and set up were first class.
What was your first impressions of playing in the British league and did those impressions change after the season finished?
Coming into the EIHL, I wasn’t sure what to expect personally, but reviews from former players had informed me that it was a face-paced, physical league, with plenty of skill. Also, I was happy to find out I was surrounded with players I converse within in English and we could build some strong relationships. I think the information I received and my first impressions definitely held up as the big ice allows for a face paced and highly skills game, meanwhile the heavy presence of North Americans and UK players bring a certain edge and physicality that is unmatched throughout Europe.
What are your thoughts on the team that Pete Russel has assembled so far compared to the Braehead team you experienced last season?
I think Pete and Gareth have done an outstanding job piecing together this Glasgow team. However, it is really hard to compare this current roster on paper with the team Braehead iced last season as many different pieces have changed. I think last seasons team also looked good on paper, but there are many other dynamic variables that must operate simultaneously in order for a team to have a successful season such as team cohesion, chemistry, leadership, injuries, coaching style, and team environments. Thus, I don’t think I can speak of Braehead’s previous team as a non-member. However, I do believe that our group right now on paper has plenty of potential and I am, personally, looking forward to getting things started.
Thank you, Liam, for taking the time out of your busy day to chat with me. Best of luck in the coming season and with your studies.
Thanks James! Appreciate you reaching out, I look forward to reading your piece.