By Len Bardsley
Dec. 30, 2005
Leon Hayward may not have brought the hard hat with him from Trenton to Columbia, but the 2005 Kelly Cup MVP has not lost his attitude and blue-collar work ethic in his move down south to join Ted Dent.
Hayward has continued the progression with the Inferno that he displayed with the Titans last season when he played a crucial role in their run to the Kelly Cup. Hayward leads the Inferno in scoring with 14 goals and 23 points in 31 games this season and is an assistant captain.
Hayward was a recipient of Dent’s hard hat several times last season, the headgear handed out to the player of the game after a Titans’ win. As an assistant coach for the Titans last season Dent was always looking for tools to motivate his team. It was after an arduous trip from Toledo to Reading with a hotel snafu thrown in that Dent spotted a standard construction helmet at the Sovereign Center before the game on March 20.
Dent got the blessing from head coach Mike Haviland and the Teddy Ball Game award was created. Matt Libby was the first recipient when he scored the game-winner in overtime against the Royals that day and for the remaining 29 games through the playoffs the previous winner of the hardhat would present it to a deserving teammate following the ensuing victory.
The entire experience of last season between Dent and Hayward has made for a good combination with the Inferno this season. Dent is going through his first head coaching experience and Hayward evolving into more of a leader and taking a bigger role with the Inferno.
“I have always gotten a long with Leon,” said Dent. “He is a likeable guy who is good in the community. As an assistant coach you are in touch with (players) more. As a head coach I trust Leon and I value his input as to the heartbeat to our hockey team. We are on the same page, we don’t always agree, but we are on the same page.”
Hayward may not be an ECHL veteran, but having played four seasons and made playoffs runs with Pensacola, Reading and Trenton he brings plenty of experience to the rink.
“I have been in a lot of situations,” said Hayward. “Teams that won and teams that lost. You go with the flow (as a leader) you don’t want to be too overbearing, but you want to push guys as well.”