Proud
partners

By Emily Laycock 

Great Britain Assistant Captain Liam Kirk says the team are going “into every game now with the mindset that we want to get something out of it”.

The 2024 World Championship got under way for GB on Saturday with an impressive display against the world’s number one ranked side, Canada. Britain were beaten 4-2 but it was a performance to be proud of with Kirk getting himself on the scoresheet as GB took the lead.

Kirk said: “We knew coming into this tournament that every team is going to be a challenge and playing the top two nations first is always going to be difficult, but it’s what we wanted.

“I think the first game against Canada, we did what we needed to do and played a hard game. Going from an 8-0 loss in 2019 against Canada to 4-2 is a big jump, so I think it shows how far we’ve come.

“I think that’s a credit to all the boys here now and the coaching staff in putting more belief in us and us having that belief as well. You get that from obviously playing and building confidence at this level, so the fact that we managed to keep that game as tight as we did is a huge achievement.”

The left-handed winger made his senior debut for Great Britain at the 2018 World Championship Division I Group A in Hungary, helping his side earn promotion to the 2019 World Championship.

“I was very fortunate enough to come in at a really great time,” he said. “Being a young guy going into that tournament in Hungary, [I was] just trying to take it all in.

“The mindset then was they wanted to avoid relegation, so to go in and keep winning games and to be a part of that gold medal and promotion to the top flight was something truly special and just to see where we’ve come.

“Avoiding relegation in France to truly believing that we belong at this pool, having a big tournament in Riga and the games we won there. It’s awesome to be a part of this group and see how far we’ve come.”

In 2021, Kirk shone on the biggest stage in the behind-closed-doors World Championship in Latvia. The Rotherham-born forward was the joint-leading goalscorer with seven goals in seven matches.

He said: “I knew going into the tournament that it was going to be, not make or break, but a big moment for me in which way my career was going to go. I knew that I just wanted to play the best hockey possible.

“I didn’t go in thinking I was going to be top goalscorer or even score more than one or two goals. I just wanted to play hard and do what I could to help the team.

“Obviously there was no pressure of relegation at that tournament which might’ve helped, but yes it was nice feeling and one that I didn’t expect.”

There was a huge spotlight on the 24-year-old coming into this World Championship as he is not only the first player born and trained in England to be selected in an NHL Draft (2018 by the Arizona Coyotes), but he is also coming into the tournament on the back of an incredible campaign with Litvinov.

During playoffs, Kirk led the team in both goals and points and ended the season breaking the record for the most goals scored by a Litvinov player in the post-season as he took them to the semi-finals for the first time since 2014-15.

Next season, Kirk will play his hockey in Germany in the DEL as he joins Eisbaren Berlin.

“There’s multiple reasons for that move,” continued Kirk. “First and foremost, it’s a top organisation – one of the best in Europe I believe. Their facilities, their coaching, the way they’re run, the owners.

“Speaking to the coaching staff and the role they see me in, the way they think they can help me take my game to the next level, is probably one of the biggest factors in that decision. I’m looking forward to getting there. It’s going to be really exciting and hopefully we get the Steelers in the CHL draw.”

Kirk is back in action again tonight with Great Britain as they take on Switzerland after an 8-0 loss to Finland in their last game.

“In the Finland game I think it was obviously a little bit of fatigue and just not being ready I guess and a few more mistakes and obviously teams like that will make it count,” he said.

“There’s a lot to learn from and a lot of positives as well, so we just build on it as the tournament goes on.

“You’ve got to be ready every night and I think it was a bit of a wake-up call and I think we’ve all realised within ourselves that we want to come into every game with a mindset that we want to win and see what happens instead of just enjoying it and waiting for the games later on in the tournament.

“I think we want to go into every game now with the mindset that we want to get something out of it.”

Following tonight’s game against Switzerland, GB take-on Denmark before meeting the hosts Czechia on Saturday.

Having played hockey in Czechia throughout the 2023-24 season, Kirk knows how passionate the fanbase is and looks forward to the game.

“It’s going to be loud: a hard, physical, fast game,” he said. “The Czech play a real good style of hockey, real fast, real physical and the fans are so passionate.

“It’s going to be loud but it’s going to be a fun experience and like I said, we’re building throughout this tournament so hopefully we can go and play a good game.”