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07/25/2011 2:01 PM

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Rockford, Ill.- After getting a taste of professional hockey at the end of the 2010-11 season, Jimmy Hayes is ready to dive in head first and start his professional career full-time this fall. After three successful seasons at Boston College (NCAA), Hayes, along with his family, friends and coaches all decided it was time to make another step forward in his hockey career.

During his junior year, Hayes tallied 33 points (21g-12a) in 39 games for the Eagles before joining the Rockford IceHogs in late March.

“I set goals at the beginning of the year and I achieved most of what I wanted,” said Hayes about his collegiate career. “I talked with family and coaches and decided it was time for me to move on. It was a big decision and I think it’ll be the right one.”

After completing his junior year at Boston College, Hayes spent the final seven games with the IceHogs. This is a learning curve for a lot of hockey players who are transitioning from the NCAA to the professional level. The players are bigger, faster and stronger and the game is more controlled.

Even though Hayes was held off the score sheet during his short stint in Rockford, the experience proved valuable.

“It was huge those seven games, just to get to know some of the guys and to learn how professional athletes treat themselves,” said Hayes. “Everybody is good and it was a great way to end the year with those seven games.”

Hayes, who was drafted in the second round (60th overall) by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, helped guide Boston College to a National Championship in 2010. He was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks on June 26, 2010 in exchange for a second round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry draft. The acquisition took place just one day after the Hawks selected his younger brother Kevin with their first round selection (24th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

While with Rockford, Jimmy had the opportunity to room with former Eagles’ teammate Ben Smith. Hayes and Smith were teammates at Boston College during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. While on the road and at home, Smith helped mentor Hayes during his time with the IceHogs.

At a staggering 6-5, 233 pounds, Hayes came into July’s Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Camp ready to compete and show off his skills. 

“You want to come in and be competitive and show off your talents,” said Hayes. “Every year you want to show everybody that you are proven. I have improved my game and hopefully I can get to the next level.”

Since 2007, the IceHogs have graduated 35 players to the National Hockey League. Hayes is certainly excited to have the opportunity to add on to that total by making the Blackhawks squad.

“It’s great seeing young guys get a chance,” said Hayes. “I’m hoping to get myself in great shape and get my game to the size it can go.”

Season Tickets On Sale For 2011-12: It'll be a long summer without IceHogs hockey and season ticket packages for the 2011-12 season are now on sale. To find a ticket package that quenches your hockey thirst, call (815) 847-6399. Don’t forget to follow the IceHogs on Twitter (@goicehogs) and Facebook.