Linhart becomes first player in Heartlanders history: what are the next steps?
Coralville, Iowa – The Iowa Heartlanders, proud ECHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild and Iowa Wild, announced defenseman Jake Linhart as the first player in team history Wednesday. The 25-year-old stressed proximity and the opportunity to help launch a new franchise were large factors in his decision to sign.
“It’s about three hours from my hometown Brookfield, Wisconsin,” Linhart said. “That was a good starting point for me. I played a little bit further away in my first two years pro with the Adirondack Thunder, which was a little too far for family to visit. I grew up playing near here with the Green Bay Gamblers and University of Wisconsin. When I saw this opportunity pop up in Iowa I wanted to jump on it.”
At this point, with one player officially announced by the Heartlanders, the team has work to do and announcements to make before the season begins. Head Coach Gerry Fleming emphasized the club will have more players announced before training camp opens in early October. Besides the Heartlanders’ own ECHL contracts, Iowa is expected to receive help from the Iowa Wild and Minnesota Wild by having players reassigned and loaned. That will help fill the team’s competitive roster.
Linhart is a great starting point for the Heartlanders. He led Adirondack blueliners in points in his first two seasons, amassing 53 in 111 games. The Thunder play at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, NY and their fans help to create one of the league’s best home-ice advantages, similar to what the Heartlanders hope to recreate in Coralville.
“Even though I sat out in 2020-21, I still had a large part of me wanting to compete. I didn’t want the pandemic to be the end of my career when I finished up there in March 2020 with Adirondack. During the pandemic before gyms re-opened I got into running and stayed in shape.”
The Heartlanders have a strong potential recruiting base with their central location in Iowa. Not only has youth hockey blossomed within the Hawkeye State, but more-established regions such as Wisconsin and Chicago are nearby.
Linhart speaks perfectly to what Heartlanders fans can expect in the near future, players who see Iowa as a great area to further their professional careers. In that way, the Heartlanders name resonated with Linhart.
“All my friends are from the Midwest, all my family, all my college buddies. Everything has always been here. This happened quickly once I got in touch with Gerry Fleming, to be honest. The conversations I had with him were straight to the point. He gave me the opportunity and said I’m going to be a big part of this team moving forward.”
The Heartlanders officially open the 2021-22 ECHL season on Oct. 22 against Kansas City at Xtream Arena. Tickets are available at ShopHeartlanders.com/collections/tickets. The Heartlanders’ AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, will host the Rockford IceHogs for an AHL preseason game Oct. 8 at 7:00 p.m. at Xtream Arena in the first professional hockey game in the new building, presented by the Iowa City Area Sports Commission. Tickets are available for the Fri., Oct. 8 game by calling the Heartlanders box office at 319-569-4625 or by visiting https://bit.ly/XtreamArenaPreseason.