Belfast Giants

The Belfast Giants (known officially as the Stena Line Belfast Giants due to sponsorship) are a professional ice hockey team based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They compete in the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) and play their home games at the SSE Arena (formerly known as the Odyssey Arena). Since their inception in 2000, the Giants have won eleven major honours, including five British league championships, two British playoff titles, and three Challenge Cups.

Belfast Giants
2019–20 EIHL season
Belfast Giants logo.svg
CityBelfast, Northern Ireland
LeagueElite Ice Hockey League
Founded2000
Home arenaSSE Arena Belfast
ColoursTeal, Red, Black, Gold, White
         
Owner(s)Odyssey Trust Ltd.
Head coachAdam Keefe
CaptainDavid Goodwin[1]
AffiliatesBelfast Giants (SNL)
Websitewww.belfastgiants.com
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Away colours
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Franchise history
2000–presentBelfast Giants
Championships
Regular season titles2001–02, 2005–06, 2011–12, 2013–14, 2018–19
Playoff championships2003, 2010
Knockout Cups2008–09
Challenge Cups2008–09, 2017–18, 2018–19

HistoryEdit

BackgroundEdit

The Belfast Giants Ltd. was founded in 1997 by two Canadian businessmen, Bob Zeller and his associate Albert Maasland, after Zeller was in talks with the British Ice Hockey Superleague (BISL) to launch a new franchise in the United Kingdom. The city of Belfast was chosen, with its new £92 million Millennium Commission project, the Odyssey Complex, due to be completed with the addition of a deal brokered between the Odyssey Trust and facility management company SMG to house the new hockey team in the arena. On 22 March 2000, the BISL confirmed that the Belfast Giants had been accepted into the league to begin play in September for the 2000-01 season.

In order to build a competitive roster for the new club, Bob Zeller approached Bracknell Bees championship-winning head coach Dave Whistle to become the first head coach of the Belfast Giants. Initially, Whistle was sceptical, deterred by having seen the violent footage of The Troubles on North American news media. In response, Zeller invited Whistle to visit Belfast and experience the changing city first-hand. Following his visit, Whistle agreed on a 3-year deal to coach the Giants. Whistle’s roster recruitment began by looking toward his championship team in Bracknell, signing seven core players from that team to build upon in Belfast: Shane Johnson, Todd Kelman, Rob Stewart, Todd Goodwin, Kevin Riehl, Paxton Schulte, and Colin Ward. The captaincy was awarded to incumbent signing Jeff Hoad, with assistants Jason Bowen and Colin Ward.

Superleague era (2000-03)Edit

Inaugural seasonEdit

The beginning of the inaugural Giants season was marred with difficulties as the opening of the Odyssey Arena was delayed until early December 2000. This meant that the Giants were forced to play their first 15 games of the season on the road, without consistent ice-time for training or practice. Regardless, the Giants made their debut on 16 September 2000 against the Nottingham Panthers losing 5-1, with Kory Karlander scoring the club’s first ever goal. The next evening, the Giants would travel to Bracknell in an unwelcome return for Whistle and his former Bees core. The Giants came out on top 6-5 after a shoot-out for their first ever win. However, the Giants would win only 4 out of 15 games to start the year.

Finally, the Giants played their first home game against the Ayr Scottish Eagles on 2 December 2000 to a sell-out crowd of 7,300 in what Whistle described as an “awesome spectacle” despite a 2-1 defeat. In the first period, Paxton Schulte would score the only goal for the Giants and fought Trevor Doyle shortly after, cementing his overnight status as a cult player for the hometown fans. The home ice proved to instigate a turn in fortune for the Giants mid-way through the season, playing in front of a consistently sold-out Odyssey Arena. The Giants would finish the season with a respectable 17-16-6-9 record, finishing in 6th place, and progressing into Group A of the playoffs to then be knocked out with a 3-3 record. The Giants saw more success in the Challenge Cup, finishing 1st in the group stage to progress to the two-leg semi-final against the Sheffield Steelers. The Giants won the first leg, 2-1, and lost the second leg, 7-0, for an 8-2 aggregate loss.

ChampionshipEdit

Dave Whistle re-signed ten members of the original line-up for the Giants second season, adding only six to the new roster; defencemen Chad Allan and Terran Sandwith, forwards Curt Bowen, Dave Matsos and Jason Ruff, and Mike Bales in goal. Jeff Hoad, Jason Bowen, and Colin Ward would retain their roles as captain and assistant captains respectively, to be joined by Sandwith as a third assistant captain. The season began with an exhibition tournament, the BT Ice Cup, hosted by the Giants with invitations to the London Knights, Eisbären Berlin, and the Frankfurt Lions.

In their first league game, the Giants suffered a 9-3 defeat to the London Knights. This would be followed by a succession of sub-par performance on the road. By late September, Whistle decided to bring in centre Sean Berens to bolster the Giants offence. Berens’ arrival and subsequent placement on the first line with Riehl and Ruff would prove a catalyst for the Giants’ success to come. The Giants would go on a 9-game unbeaten streak shortly thereafter, which was broken by two losses, the first away in London and the second at home to the Nottingham Panthers on 16 October, which would be their last home defeat of the season. The Giants would then win 7-2 at home against Ayr to gain 1st place, where the team would remain for the rest of the season.

Following a 4-1 win at Sheffield on 17 January 2001, the Giants travelled to Bracknell needing only 1 point to win the league. On the 19th January, in a poetic return to Bracknell for Whistle and his former Bees core, the Giants would force a 2-2 draw with the home side to clinch their first ever championship with a league record-breaking 16-game unbeaten streak. Upon their arrival back in Belfast, the Giants were welcomed at Belfast City Airport by over one thousand boisterous fans. Unfortunately the Giants would struggle with a championship hangover as the team botched come playoff time, not making it past the qualification group. The Giants would, however, advance to the Challenge Cup final for the first time in their history, only to be stifled 5-0 by the Scottish Eagles.

Playoff title and Superleague demiseEdit

With the eventual demise of the Superleague in mid-2003, there were concerns that the Giants organisation would not survive because of developing financial issues. The club ran up debts of approximately £1.4 million, with Maasland saying that the Giants were “by far and away the worst business [he had] been involved in”. One partner company was believed to be owed nearly £65,000. However, facing the threat of liquidation, creditors voted to accept a 20p-to-the-pound pay-out, allowing the club to continue under new ownership of local businessman Jim Gillespie and join the newly established first-tier of British ice hockey dubbed the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL).

Elite League era (2003-present)Edit

The Belfast Giants have won five EIHL regular season titles - the most recent of which came during the 2018–19 campaign, three Challenge Cup titles (including in 2017–18 and 2018–19), and two play-off championships.

Belfast Giants were added to EA Sports' NHL 20 game, enabling players to take control of the Giants in the Champions Hockey League.[2]

The 2019–20 EIHL season was cancelled on 13 March 2020 with the remaining league fixtures and subsequent play-offs scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Challenge Cup was the only competition to see a winner crowned.[3]

The 2020–21 Elite League season - originally pencilled in for a revised start date of 5 December - was suspended on 15 September 2020, because of ongoing uncertainty over coronavirus pandemic restrictions. The EIHL board determined that the season was non-viable without supporters being permitted to attend matches and unanimously agreed to a suspension.[4] The season was cancelled completely in February 2021.[5]

Team informationEdit

Logos and uniformsEdit

Since 2000 the Giants’ main logo has depicted a stylized version of the mythical warrior Finn McCool, who is commonly portrayed as a giant in popular folklore. The original logo had Finn brandishing a hockey stick with the Giants’ wordmark in the foreground. The inaugural Giants uniforms featured white home jerseys with red and teal striping, matching socks, and black shorts. The inaugural away jerseys featured their now famous teal with red and white striping, matching socks, and black shorts.

For the 2001-02 season the Giants introduced red jerseys with teal and white striping for the BT Ice Cup, and black jerseys with teal and red striping for the Challenge Cup.

In 2002-03, the Giants altered their home jerseys to feature red shoulder piping with teal and black stripes.

For 2004-05 the Giants replaced the red shoulder piping with black piping on home jerseys and changed away jerseys to mirror these except with teal as the primary colour.

Ahead of the 2021-22 EIHL season, the Giants unveiled a refreshed primary logo and alteration to the club's home, away and Challenge Cup jerseys.[6]

ArenaEdit

One corner of the SSE Arena has been dubbed 'Boomerang Corner' – named in memory of long time Giants fan, Stewart Boone – and is left unreserved for a large group of fans who generate noise, bang drums, and start game night chants.

Originally there was a traditional four-sided scoreboard suspended over centre ice. This has recently been replaced by two large screens for scores and video replays; one behind Boomerang Corner and one at the opposite corner of the rink. Two traditional scoreboards are located in the two remaining corners.

Team cultureEdit

Sectarianism has long been a significant problem with sports in Northern Ireland. When the club was established, Giants' management was committed to ensure the club did not attach itself to any particular faith or community, instead aspiring to represent Belfast as a whole. A number of policies were introduced to achieve this. Football colours, clothing, and flags which may have displayed a persons' political or religious affiliation were banned from the arena. The national anthem of the United Kingdom, traditionally played before games at other arenas in the Elite League, is not played before Giants games.

These policies have been successful as the Giants have built a large and enthusiastic fanbase which has become known as the ‘Teal Army’. As of 16 March 2020, the Giants have averaged an attendance of 4,387, ranking them 3rd amongst UK teams and 80th in Europe.

The Giants have an official podcast, “A View From the Bridge”, hosted by fans Patrick Smyth, Davey McGimpsey, Simon Kitchen, and Joel Neill. There is also an official supporters club known as the Giants OSC.

Team songsEdit

For many years the Giants have been introduced onto the ice with the song “Rise” by English rock band The Cult. The Giants’ goal song begins with The Irish Rovers’ version of “The Belle of Belfast City”, a popular local rendition of the old children’s folk song “I’ll Tell Me Ma”. This is mixed into “Song 2” by English Britpop group Blur before face-off.

Current squadEdit

Squad for 2021-22 Elite League season [7]

Netminders
No. Nat. Player Catches Acquired Place of Birth Joined from Press Release
1    Jackson Whistle L 2021 Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada Nottingham Panthers, EIHL [1]
34   Tyler Beskorowany L 2021 Sudbury, Ontario, Canada EC VSV, IceHL [2]
35   Andrew Dickson L 2011 Ballymoney, Northern Ireland Invicta Dynamos, ENL [3]
Defencemen
No. Nat. Player Shoots Acquired Place of Birth Joined from Press Release
2    Sam Ruopp L 2021 Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada Allen Americans, ECHL [4]
6   Jeff Baum L 2021 Colleyville, Texas, United States American International Yellow Jackets, NCAA [5]
7   Mark Garside A L 2021 East Kilbride, Scotland Nottingham Panthers, EIHL [6]
22   Kevin Raine A R 2017 Dryden, Ontario, Canada Florida Everblades, ECHL [7]
23   Griffin Reinhart A L 2021 West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Iserlohn Roosters, DEL [8]
88   Cam Knight R 2021 Reading, Massachusetts, United States Esbjerg Energy, Metal Ligaen [9]
Forwards
No. Nat. Player Position Acquired Place of Birth Joined from Press Release
8   Lewis Hook LW 2021 Peterborough, England Nottingham Panthers, EIHL [10]
9    Ben Lake A LW/C 2021 Calgary, Alberta, Canada Manchester Storm, EIHL [11]
10    Scott Conway C 2021 Basingstoke, England Allen Americans, ECHL [12]
12    J.J. Piccinich RW 2021 Paramus, New Jersey, United States Orlando Solar Bears, ECHL [13]
15   Darcy Murphy LW 2021 Belleville, Ontario, Canada Cracovia Krakow, Polska Hokej Liga [14]
17   Slater Doggett C 2021 Oakville, Ontario, Canada HC Nové Zámky, Slovak Extraliga [15]
26   Mark Cooper A RW 2021 Toronto, Ontario, Canada South Carolina Stingrays, ECHL [16]
28   Jordan Boucher LW 2021 Montreal, Quebec, Canada Grizzlys Wolfsburg, DEL [17]
64   David Goodwin C C 2021 St Louis, Missouri, United States Cracovia Krakow, Polska Hokej Liga [18]
71   Tyler Soy C 2021 Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada Alberta Golden Bears, U Sports [19]
89   Ciaran Long LW 2021 Birmingham, England Manchester Storm, EIHL [20]
On Loan
No. Nat. Player Position Acquired Place of Birth Playing For Press Release
Team Staff
No. Nat. Name Position Place of Birth Joined from Press Release
N/A   Adam Keefe Head coach Brampton, Ontario, Canada Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL [21]
N/A   Jeff Mason Assistant coach Easthampton, Massachusetts, United States Lillehammer IK, GET-ligaen [22]
N/A    Rob Stewart Assistant coach Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada Romford Raiders, EPIHL [23]
34   Tyler Beskorowany Player/assistant coach Sudbury, Ontario, Canada EC VSV, IceHL [24]
N/A    Steve Thornton GM/Director of Hockey Operations Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Basingstoke Bison, EIHL [25]
N/A   Jason 'Taff' Ellery Equipment Manager Cardiff, Wales London Knights, BISL [26]
N/A   Barbara Reynolds Massage Therapist Northern Ireland Appointed in 2016 [27]
Recent departures
No. Player Position Acquired Leaving For Press Release
21   Liam Morgan RW 2019 Manchester Storm, EIHL [28]
70    Curtis Hamilton LW/RW 2019 Manchester Storm, EIHL [29]

Former GiantsEdit

Retired jersey numbersEdit

Notable former playersEdit

CaptainsEdit

Name Tenure
Jeff Hoad 2000–02
Paul Kruse 2002–03
Jason Ruff 2003–04
Shane Johnson 2004–05
George Awada 2005–09
Colin Shields 2009–11
Jeremy Rebek 2011–12
Adam Keefe 2012–17
Blair Riley 2017–19
Matt Pelech 2019–20
David Goodwin 2021–

Head coachesEdit

No. Name Tenure
1 David Whistle 2000–03
2 Rob Stewart 2003–04
3 Tony Hand 2004–05
4 Ed Courtenay 2005–08
5 Steve Thornton 2008–10
6 Doug Christiansen 2010–13
7 Paul Adey 2013–14
8 Steve Thornton 2014–15
9 Derrick Walser 2015–17
10 Adam Keefe 2017– present

Franchise scoring leadersEdit

These are the Top 10 Points Scoring Leaders for the Belfast Giants:

Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points

Player POS GP G A Pts
Colin Shields C/RW 370 159 297 456
George Awada RW 376 149 187 336
Craig Peacock RW 341 140 159 299
Evan Cheverie LW 239 91 183 274
Jason Ruff LW 193 100 145 245
Todd Kelman D 418 73 141 214
Shane Johnson D 491 54 145 199
Rob Sandrock D 224 49 141 190
Ed Courtenay RW 124 58 129 187
Curtis Bowen LW 219 84 103 187

HonoursEdit

2000–01

2001–02

2002–03

2003–04

2004–05

2005–06

2008–09

2009–10

2010–11

2011–12

2012–13

  • Erhardt Conference Winners
  • EIHL Second Team All-Star: Robbie Sandrock

2013–14

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

  • EIHL Challenge Cup Champions
  • EIHL First Team All-Star: Sébastien Sylvestre

2018–19

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ https://twitter.com/BelfastGiants/status/1448997144749281285
  2. ^ "Belfast and Cardiff's NHL 20 ratings » Chasing The Puck". Chasing The Puck. 11 September 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  3. ^ "EIHL cancels all matches for rest of season". EIHL. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  4. ^ "EIHL Board Suspend 2020-21 Season". EIHL. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  5. ^ "No Elite League Season 2020/21". EIHL. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  6. ^ https://www.belfastgiants.com/news/giants-reborn
  7. ^ "Belfast Giants at". www.eliteprospects.com. Retrieved 1 July 2021.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Superleague Champions
2001–02
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Playoff Champions
2002–03
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Elite League Champions
2005–06
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Playoff Champions
2009–10
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Elite League Champions
2013–14
Succeeded by