116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The first player announced as an official member of the Iowa Heartlanders is a survivor. From a family of survivors.
Defenseman Jake Linhart has agreed to play for the first-year ECHL franchise, it was announced Wednesday. Linhart, 25, played the last two seasons with the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL, with a five-game stint with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League in 2019-20.
The AHL is the top minor league in hockey, with the ECHL a step below it. Linhart is a Brookfield, Wis., native, who played two years of junior hockey in the United States Hockey League with the Green Bay Gamblers and four years of college hockey at Wisconsin.
“This is so close to home. It’s right in the Midwest, where I grew up,” Linhart said. “I played my junior hockey in Green Bay, then my college in Madison, so just the location aspect of it really appealed to me. So that was the major reason I decided to come to Coralville.
“I’ve already met and talked to so many people in the organization. Everything seems amazing. It’s super exciting to be the first player announced in the program’s history. I just want to do my part and build something.”
Linhart overcame testicular cancer two years ago, just prior to making his professional debut. He has a sister who has had a cancer “scare,” and his mother, Deb, has had a recurrence of breast cancer, which she was first diagnosed with nine years ago.
Being close to home brings a whole other level of importance to him because of that.
“Don’t take anything for granted. There are other things more important outside hockey, for sure,” Linhart said. “That’s what I’ve learned from it. Family is the most important thing to have. To have a couple of people in my family go through it, to have my mom go through it again, it’s not only a physical battle, but it’s a mental battle as well. I guess just talking through it and being there for each other, that’s what I’m trying to do for my mom, especially. They did that for me as well when I was going through my thing.”
Linhart said he considers himself to be a two-way defenseman who takes care of his own end first but who can jump into a play offensively. He had five goals and 18 assists in 51 games last season for Adirondack.
“Jake brings a solid defensive game and an offensive touch that will help our team this season,” Heartland Coach Gerry Fleming said. “He became a solid member of the community in Adirondack over his two seasons there and will be visible in Coralville in our inaugural season. He plays the type of fast game needed by a modern defenseman, and we are thrilled to announce him as our first signing.”
Heartlanders Director of Communications David Fine said Wednesday the club expects to announce the signings of several other plays in the coming days. The Heartlanders are affiliated with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and ultimately will be assigned and/or loaned some players from them once NHL training camps begin.
The Heartlanders’ first game is Oct. 22 against the Kansas City Mavericks at Xtream Arena in Coralville.
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