Sheffield Steelers will be working behind the scenes to turn Zack Fitzgerald into an even better defenceman, next season.
The 31-year-old American enforcer was a stand-out performer and a huge fans’ favourite in his maiden season at the House of Steel.
And he has strengthened his links with the fan-base during the summer, attending club functions in the community.
Now Steelers are plotting to pep up his all-round game, which is based on strength, courage and defensive commitment.
“It is our job to try and get a few per cent more out of even our top performers” says coach Paul Thompson.
“Zack is a great team guy, great person, he goes out every night to do what he needs to do and played a significant part in our league title win.
“Yes, he’s a player who will defend himself and his team-mates and is strong defensively.
“He’s good on the penalty kill, will get his stick, body head whatever in the way to make sure the other team doesn’t score.
“He was mortified last season when he broke his hand - he’ll always drop the gloves when he has to” said Thompson.
“Through the Summer he is working with Danny Mawer to make sure his strength and power levels continue to give him such a good advantage.
“We are also working on his speed and mobility, to see if he can move faster to do what he does so well.”
Fitzgerald is one of only two surviving members of last year’s title-winning defence.
Some changes were forced on the club, others were not - Jayce Coyle, for instance, decided to leave despite being wanted while the club could not find a place for Russ Moyer. “I wanted to get some size on the back end, I like to see big d-men take away time and space” said the coach, who is looking forward to working with Anders Franzon, a 6’3 signing from Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League.