Walleye captain Alden Hirschfeld will return for a fifth season with his hometown team.
Hirschfeld, a Sylvania native, signed with Toledo on Friday and threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Mud Hens game.
The 29-year-old forward tallied a career-high 23 goals and 26 assists in 55 games for the Walleye last season. He has played in 190 games for Toledo since 2013-14.
“This is my hometown, and we have the best fans,” Hirschfeld said. “The community takes care of us. I'm super excited. I can’t wait to get back on the ice.”
Hirschfeld, a Northview High graduate, was named team captain in February. This will be the sixth pro season for the 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward, who has 57 goals and 91 assists in 190 games for Toledo.
Walleye coach Dan Watson called Hirschfeld a great player and leader.
“He is a winner who works extremely hard in everything he does,” Watson said. “He gives 100 percent each and every shift and will stop at nothing to bring a championship to his hometown.”
Hirschfeld strode to the mound before the Hens game to a loud ovation while holding the hand of his young daughter, Vivian. He said his pitch was a little sloppy.
“It might have been a strike — but probably not,” he said, laughing. “What a cool time, though. My daughter will remember this. It was great to hear them yelling and cheering. Those are the things that make you love this place and want to play here. There’s so much support and love.”
Hirschfeld ranks fourth on the Walleye’s all-time games played list. He is tied for the third most goals, is fourth in assists, and fourth in total points. He also is the organization’s all-time leader in career short-handed goals with six, including three last season.
The forward also has persevered through a major medical scare when he had his career put on hold after he had a seizure during a game on Jan. 8, 2016. Just two months later, Hirschfeld had brain surgery to remove a malformation that had caused the seizure.
Neil Neukam, the Walleye’s executive vice president and general manager, said Hirschfeld is an inspiration.
“We’re really excited to have him back. When you look at the adversity he’s been through and see how he’s bounced back, it’s amazing,” Neukam said. “He’s one of those guys that deserves everything he gets.”
In his career, Hirschfeld has 61 goals and 95 assists in 208 games in the ECHL starting in 2012-13 with South Carolina. He’s played in 68 contests in the American Hockey League with Grand Rapids, Providence, and Portland.
On Feb. 22, 2015, Hirschfeld posted single-game Walleye records with five assists and six points in a 12-0 win against Gwinnett.
Hirschfeld played in 134 games in college over four seasons with Miami and had 35 goals and 35 assists. He played three years at Northview and was named the state’s Mr. Hockey in 2006.
Hirschfeld said he is confident Watson will put together a stellar roster. The team lost several key players from last year’s team. Goalies Jeff Lerg and Jake Paterson left, along with high-scoring forwards Tylor and Tyson Spink.
“He’s going to do a great job. He’s the best at it. We’ve been successful for a while now, and he’s had a lot to say in that. We’ll be ready to go,” Hirschfeld said.
Toledo Walleye captain Alden Hirschfeld throws out ceremonial first pitch before the Mud Hens game Friday night, along with his daughter, Vivian. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Walleye captain Alden Hirschfeld will return for a fifth season with his hometown team. Hirschfeld, a Sylvania native, signed with Toledo today. BLADE/JETTA FRASER