COACH Paul Thompson believes defenceman Zack Fitzgerald is the “perfect fit” for Sheffield Steelers after signing him up for the 2015-16 campaign.
The 29-year-old spent last season with Elite League rivals Braehead Clan, who qualified along with regular season champions Steelers to play in the prestigious Champions Hockey League which starts in August.
The American - a 2003 NHL entry draft pick (88th overall) for St Louis Blues, has spent the majority of his career in the American Hockey League, the second tier in North America.
While playing for the Clan under former Steelers’ coach Ryan Finnerty, Fitzgerald clocked up 344 penalty minutes in 52 games, while contributing two goals and 12 assists.
“I went hard after Zack - he is a perfect fit for us,” said Thompson. “He has great experience, character and leadership skills.
“He knows his role on this team and that is to keep other players honest. More importantly it is to allow our skilled players to play with freedom and I am sure they will be happy when they look around the locker room and see that he is one of them.”
Fitzgerald’s first game for the Steelers will be against the Clan at Ice Sheffield on August 15 as the two rivals prepare for their first ever taste of the CHL against some of Europe’s top teams.
“When I spoke with Paul Thompson I liked his attitude,” said Fitzgerald, who saw Clan push Steelers hard for the overall title, eventually missing out to the South Yorkshire club by just the one point.
“As a player you like to feel wanted and he made me feel that way.
“It’s bitter sweet leaving Braehead where I had such a great time and met so many fantastic people. We had a great year last season and went so close. I have great respect for everyone associated with the organisation.”