Hockey season is unofficially, officially underway with the start of 2021 prospect development camp at Gila River Arena. Thirty-four players are attending the camp, which runs September 9-13 and is capped off with an intrasquad scrimmage Monday, 6 p.m.
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Liam Kirk arrived from Great Britain two weeks ago by way of the Dominican Republic, a bit curiously.
"I got stuck in the Dominican sorting out my visa," said Kirk, 21, the first English-born and -trained player to sign an NHL contract. "I needed a work visa (to come to camp). The earliest (visa) appointment in England wasn't until March. There were earlier appointments in the Dominican, and I wanted to get over here in time. So it made sense to just go there to get that done."
Kirk, a 2018, seventh-round draft pick who signed a three-year, entry level contract in July, began participating in off-ice training sessions with camp teammates as soon as he arrived.
"I've been doing some training at Exos with a few of the guys over here already," Kirk said. "I've been acclimatizing as much as I can with the heat. I'm just enjoying it. I've been getting good skates in also."
This is the third Coyotes development camp for Kirk, and his first under contract.
The following Q&A is from a one-on-one with Kirk during development camp:
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This is not your first development camp with the Coyotes; how is this one different?
"I feel like I've definitely grown a lot as a player, and as a person. I've definitely matured on the ice. I want to come and be a leader at these camps. When you're first drafted or invited, your first (camp) can be quite daunting. So, I just want to show these guys (how to) learn and take in all of the knowledge. I know the coaches, and I'm a bit more familiar with the surroundings. So, I am a little bit more at ease. Other than that, I'm just out here working and trying to get better."
What goals have you set for yourself this year?
"I used to be a person who set goals and timelines, but I got too caught up focusing on those. So, for me, my focus is the same as it was when I went to the (World Championship Tournament), and that is to just go have fun, work hard and play the right way. You can only control the controllables, that's just what I focus on."
What are your other main interests outside of hockey?
"I like golf and cricket. I used to play both sports every summer. Other than that, video games and shoes. I like shoes. I've always liked shoes, but I've never been able to afford them. I like Yeezys and Nikes, anything really. Anything that looks nice."
Which athletes, past or present, do you most admire?
"Obviously, you follow the greats and see what they do. Hockey-wise, I've always liked following the superstars, but the players who play the right way, like (Connor) McDavid and (Sidney) Crosby. You also observe the ways people work in different sports, such as LeBron James and Tom Brady: the way they handle themselves as professionals, and you see the success they've had. It makes you want to have that same success."
What is the best piece of advice you've received?
"To work hard and control the controllables. Something that I live by is that everything happens for a reason. So, try not to get worked up about stuff if things aren't going your way or if you're facing adversity. Everything happens for a reason.
"One year ago, I wasn't playing hockey. Covid-19 shut down everything, and it wasn't ideal. So, for me to be here now, it shows that it can seem like you can be in a place where things don't seem to be going your way, and then the next thing you know, you're at NHL development camp. It's just about controlling the controllables and staying as positive as you can."
Before you step on the ice, what do you do to feel your best?
"Get my body in the best physical shape it can be to be prepared; make sure to stretch out. I like to make sure I have a few bottles of water, especially out here in the (Arizona) heat. It's important to make sure you're well hydrated."
What do you like most about Arizona?
"The heat (can be challenging). It's a lot nicer in the morning -- and I can imagine in the wintertime it will be one of my favorite things. So far, it's just nice to see all of the familiar surroundings and see the people again.
Do you have a favorite movie?
"Happy Gilmore. I'm a big Happy Gilmore guy."