Bailey Conger looking to make up for lost time with Leeds Knights
The 26-year-old American forward has replaced the ousted Josh Adkins as one of the Knights’ three imports in NIHL National and, ahead of his first experience of British hockey, will hook up with his new team-mates at practice on Tuesday morning.
Four days later will come Conger’s first competitive game of the 2023-24 season when the Knights host Bees IHC for a second time this campaign, the right-hander having been without a team since ending last season with Knoxville Ice Bears in the SPHL.
His lack of gametime came about more through his own determination to move on and try his luck elsewhere after an impressive stay in Tennessee which saw him score 25 goals and 28 assists in just 40 games for the Ice Bears.
A try out at a pre-season training camp for Jacksonville Icemen in the ECHL failed to produce anything permanent and Conger looked set for a return to the SPHL when Knights’ head coach Ryan Aldridge came calling.
As far as Conger is concerned, it couldn’t have been better timed.
“The Leeds offer came along pretty late and I was actually getting ready to go off to an American team when Ryan called me, it was really good timing to be honest,” said Conger.
“I was just actively looking for a good spot to play with a good coach and a good city and Ryan reached out to me. Looking at his resume and his track record it was an opportunity that I wanted to jump at.
“As an offensive player and with Ryan’s coaching skillset it was definitely the kind of thing I was looking for.”
Conger admits to being a touch frustrated at his lack of match action so far this season, but all that will do is make him determined to make up for lost time.
“Ryan told me he was looking for a goalscorer and I love to score goals,” added Conger.
“Last year in Knoxville I feel like I ended the season playing my best hockey in that last month of April, I got player of the month and scored about 11 goals in 10 games to end the season off, so it went pretty well.
“I felt like I was on a bit of a hot streak and so I just want to pick up where I left off last Spring.”
Conger is not a total stranger to Europe or the UK either, which should help make his transition to a new home that bit easier.
In his freshman year with Providence College back in the 2017-18 season he played a tournament in Belfast.
Then, the start of last season took him to Scandinavia for a couple of months, firstly to Finland and then Sweden where he played a handful of games with third-tier outfit Enköpings SK before heading back to North America and, eventually, Knoxville.
"I actually started off in Finland initially and spent like a month there, but they ended up not having me” explained Conger. “It was a deal where it was like a 10-game contract, so this Swedish team bought me out and I made a deal with them.
"It was kind of weird how it turned out but I got to see a bit of both countries which was great. It was very interesting, but they don’t play many games over there – we played like once a week – you really need to be playing at least twice a week.”