What it feels like to ... BE AN ICE HOCKEY EN­FORCER

The Herald Magazine - - FIRST UP - ZACK FITZGER­ALD, GLAS­GOW CLAN CAP­TAIN

IWAS on the ice pretty much as soon as I could walk. I started skat­ing at three and by four had picked up a hockey stick to whack a puck around. Ice hockey is a way of life in Min­nesota, where I was born and grew up.

My mum went into labour with me on the way to my brother’s hockey game. My dad dropped her off at the hospi­tal then swung by later to pick us up after the tour­na­ment. After leav­ing school at 16, I went to Seat­tle and played ju­nior hockey un­til I was 19. I was drafted by the St Louis Blues and signed a pro con­tract at 20 where I played in the mi­nors.

I was called up for my one and only Na­tional Hockey League (NHL) game for the Van­cou­ver Canucks in 2008. Af­ter­wards, I went through the pro­fes­sional sys­tems for the Carolina Hur­ri­canes, Mon­treal Cana­di­ens and Philadel­phia Fly­ers play­ing in mi­nor league teams across the US and Canada.

I spent nine sea­sons in the Amer­i­can Hockey League (AHL), which was a great ex­pe­ri­ence, but it is a young man’s league. There is quite a turnover, so it be­comes harder to stay as a vet­eran.

I came to Scot­land in 2014 to play for Brae­head Clan – now known as Glas­gow Clan – and have been in the UK Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) ever since. I spent three years with the Sh­effield Steel­ers be­fore re­turn­ing to the Clan this sea­son.

My wife Crys­tal and I love Scot­land. We got mar­ried here in 2015. We eloped to Glen Coe, where we had a beau­ti­ful cer­e­mony, then went up to Skye for our hon­ey­moon.

As a de­fence­man my job is to keep the puck out of the net and move it up the ice for the for­wards to go on the at­tack. The en­forcer role is some­thing

I took on at 16. I was in­flu­enced by a lot of my team­mates who were tough guys.

The way I play is phys­i­cal and ag­gres­sive, so it came nat­u­rally. If there is a bad hit or dirty play, an en­forcer like me would step in and help po­lice the play. Op­pos­ing play­ers know go­ing into the game that this guy is tough and may fight to pro­tect his team­mates.

That can help defuse ten­sion dur­ing

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