It’s the 29th May and around the cities of the EIHL, hockey is perhaps not the first thing on everyone’s mind.
But that didn’t stop the Teal Army from packing into the SSE Arena to hear from Head Coach Adam Keefe, fresh off a successful World Championships campaign as Assistant Coach to Pete Russell and Team GB.
In addition to seven signings for the 2019/20 Belfast Giants, the annual off season Fan Night also brought with it the news that both Tyler Beskorowany and last season’s EIHL Top Scorer Darcy Murphy would be moving on to pursue other opportunities in Europe.
Being interviewed by Downtown/Cool’s Dave McCammond, Adam Keefe first discussed his squad so far.
“We’re hopeful for big things from Patryk Wronka.”
On Ciaran Long: “His numbers spoke for themselves this year. He scored a few against us that opened our eyes. He can do it against top teams.”
On Jordan Smotherman (who recieved a warm ovation at the very mention of his name): “All of us who played before him fell in love [with Belfast], and he did that pretty quickly. He’s going to be motivated to play in front of you guys.”
Keefe then went on to discuss the Giants entry into the 2019/20 Champions Hockey League: “There wasn’t going to be an easy draw. I wasn’t really concerned about who we got. I’m pretty happy. The success of last season’s team earned our berth two times over. A great challenge for me and this organisation.”
The conversation then turned to the SEVEN names to be revealed for the 2019/20 Belfast Giants roster:
The trusty duo of Ballymoney’s own Andrew Dickson and Giants testimonial recipient Stephen Murphy have returned to the netminding roster.
Meanwhile, the Giants Brit corps was boosted as Mark Garside returns for his tenth year of ice hockey in teal alongside Paul Swindlehurst- fresh off a GB campaign where he tangled with the world’s elite in Slovakia. The Giants have also secured the services of hard working Brit forward Lewis Hook once again.
Double tough defenseman Curtis Leonard is also back for his second season as an import in Teal, after a huge 2018/19 where he endeared himself to Belfast with his no nonsense style of play.
But perhaps the main headline of the night was the addition of Ben Lake from the Coventry Blaze. The duel-nat Lake set the league alight last year in blue (66GP, 37G, 44A), and Adam Keefe is hopeful that he can transfer the same point scoring prowess to Belfast.
LISTEN: Adam Keefe talks to AVFTB’s Joel Neill about signings // departures // CHL // IIHF Worlds… and whether or not he’s getting a summer holiday.
LISTEN: Head of Hockey Operations Steve Thornton discusses the off season recruitment process // replacing big names // CHL
LISTEN: Odyssey Trust CEO Robert Fitzpatrick talks future plans ahead of the Belfast Giant’s 20th season
Words: Joel Neill
Audio: Joel Neill / AVFTB
Extremely Low Quality Images: Joel Neill
Graphics: Belfast Giants