Of the 28 players selected to represent Great Britain at this year’s ice hockey World Championship in Latvia, two grew up in Rotherham.
Forward Liam Kirk, who is from Maltby, and Swinton’s Ben Bowns – a netminder, are flying the flag at the annual international men’s 16-team tournament – which this year runs from 21st May to 6th June 2021 and will all be held in Riga.
GB are in Group A with matches against Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. Games will take place at the Olympic Sports Centre.
Kirk is the only English born and trained player to be drafted to the NHL, he was a seventh round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Since then he has been developing his game in the competitive Ontario Hockey League (OHL), with the Peterborough Petes.
The Covid pandemic has hampered his game time as he builds towards a spot in the NHL but Kirk is still aiming to realise that dream. He recently returned home to play for the Sheffield Steelers in the Elite League Series.
Speaking to Elite Ice Hockey League TV about the World Championships, Liam (pictured top in 2018), said: “It’s definitely going to be big. I’m not trying to think too much about it being the tournament where I need to play really good at, I’m just keeping it at the back of my mind. It’s hockey at the end of the day. You just have to go and play and have fun, that’s the main thing.
“I know for a lot of British guys this has been the main focus for us, especially with the way this year has gone, we are all aiming for the World Championships and we are all excited to get going.”
Having slipped through the net with the Sheffield Steelers so to speak, Bowns has forged his career at rivals, the Cardiff Devils. Bouncing back from a serious injury he suffered whist playing for Graz in Austria, he recently faced off against Kirk in the recent Elite League Series where his Nottingham Panthers team prevailed in the final.
Bowns (pictured above), who was a stand out performer at the last World Championships, also spoke to Elite Ice Hockey League TV. He said: “As a team we have to forget there’s no relegation this year. We have to play. We have to prove a point.
“If we go and get absolutely hammered by every team and we don’t play well, then the argument will come in that GB don’t deserve to be up there and aren’t good enough. We’ve got to remember that we got there on our own merit. We stayed up there on our own merit. We are good enough to play at that level and I think that the objective going in will be to win a fair few games.
“For me it’s just as much pressure as always. It’s just the same objective – I want to give us a chance in every game. And I’m going to be playing for a contract, whether that’s in Europe somewhere or the UK. I’ve got to put myself in that shop window.”
GB’s games are being shown live on FreeSports, starting with GB v Russia at 2pm on May 22.
Images: GB Ice hockey