LIAM KIRK will have little time to express thanks to all his well-wishers after being drafted by the NHL's Arizona Coyotes - as he flies out immediately to begin development camp.
The 18-year-old was the first British-born and trained player to be drafted to the NHL since Colin Shields in 2000 when it was announced on Saturday evening that he was a seventh round pick for the Coyotes, the 189th overall selection in the two-day process in Dallas.
A short while later, he was busy packing his suitcases and hockey gear ready for an early Sunday morning flight taking him to Glendale, Arizona, where he will attend a development camp at which he will be assessed by his new employers before the best course of action is decided for the next phase of his development.
READ MORE - Kirk picked by Arizona Coyotes in 2018 NHL Draft
In all likelihood, Kirk will be playing junior hockey in the CHL next year and while he has made history by being the first English-born and trained player to be drafted, he acknowledges that there is still a long road ahead before he gets chance to become the first such player to actually play in the NHL.
Kirk's name was actually read out during a commercial break in the TV coverage, meaning he actually discovered his future destination via a text message from former Sheffield Steelers' team-mate Guillaime Desbiens, who was attending the draft at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas, Texas.
"I have to admit it was very emotional and a bit overwhelming when I first heard," said Kirk at his parents' Maltby home on Saturday night. "It was probably one of the best feelings I've ever experienced. Even when it got to the seventh round and I hadn’t been picked I was getting a bit more nervous and anxious.
"But, when it finally happened, it was amazing. I don’t really care what round it came in or which pick it was, I just wanted to be drafted and now it’s all about what I do after the draft."
Within minutes of hearing about him being picked, Kirk found himself on the telephone to the Coyotes' GM John Chayka.
"It is a very quick turnaround," added Kirk. "John just congratulated me on being picked and told me what was happening with flights and said he was looking forward to seeing me.
"They are a team who are looking to improve and going through something of a rebuild, so it’s going to be exciting."
Steelers' head coach Paul Thompson, who enrolled Kirk on a two-year apprenticeship back in 2016, said the teenager's latest achievement was a proud moment.
"I couldn't be more proud - I'm absolutely over the moon for him," said Thompson. "And everybody around the sport in Sheffield over the last few years that has played a small part in his development in him getting this opportunity should take a pat on the back.
"But the biggest one has got to be for him - because he's the one that puts it out there every day. There is such a lot of hard work ahead of him still, though, and this is just the first rung on the ladder.
"There's no guarantee of anything - but why should he stop now? Who would have said two years ago that a kid from Maltby playing in the juniors in Sheffield would have been a seventh-round draft pick for the Coyotes in 2018? It's simply fantastic news and fair play to Arizona, too, for giving him that opportunity."