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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.
|2019–20 EIHL season|
|City||Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|League||Elite Ice Hockey League|
|Home arena||SSE Arena Belfast|
|Colours||Teal, Red, Black, Gold, White |
|Owner(s)||Odyssey Trust Ltd.|
|Head coach||Adam Keefe|
|Affiliates||Belfast Giants (SNL)|
|Regular season titles||2001–02, 2005–06, 2011–12, 2013–14, 2018–19|
|Playoff championships||2003, 2010|
|Challenge Cups||2008–09, 2017–18, 2018–19|
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
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.
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.
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.
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. The season was cancelled completely in February 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Squad for 2021-22 Elite League season 
|No.||Nat.||Player||Catches||Acquired||Place of Birth||Joined from||Press Release|
|1||Jackson Whistle||L||2021||Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada||Nottingham Panthers, EIHL|||
|34||Tyler Beskorowany||L||2021||Sudbury, Ontario, Canada||EC VSV, IceHL|||
|35||Andrew Dickson||L||2011||Ballymoney, Northern Ireland||Invicta Dynamos, ENL|||
|No.||Nat.||Player||Shoots||Acquired||Place of Birth||Joined from||Press Release|
|2||Sam Ruopp||L||2021||Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada||Allen Americans, ECHL|||
|6||Jeff Baum||L||2021||Colleyville, Texas, United States||American International Yellow Jackets, NCAA|||
|7||Mark Garside A||L||2021||East Kilbride, Scotland||Nottingham Panthers, EIHL|||
|22||Kevin Raine A||R||2017||Dryden, Ontario, Canada||Florida Everblades, ECHL|||
|23||Griffin Reinhart A||L||2021||West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada||Iserlohn Roosters, DEL|||
|88||Cam Knight||R||2021||Reading, Massachusetts, United States||Esbjerg Energy, Metal Ligaen|||
|No.||Nat.||Player||Position||Acquired||Place of Birth||Playing For||Press Release|
|No.||Nat.||Name||Position||Place of Birth||Joined from||Press Release|
|N/A||Adam Keefe||Head coach||Brampton, Ontario, Canada||Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL|||
|N/A||Jeff Mason||Assistant coach||Easthampton, Massachusetts, United States||Lillehammer IK, GET-ligaen|||
|N/A||Rob Stewart||Assistant coach||Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada||Romford Raiders, EPIHL|||
|34||Tyler Beskorowany||Player/assistant coach||Sudbury, Ontario, Canada||EC VSV, IceHL|||
|N/A||Steve Thornton||GM/Director of Hockey Operations||Edmonton, Alberta, Canada||Basingstoke Bison, EIHL|||
|N/A||Jason 'Taff' Ellery||Equipment Manager||Cardiff, Wales||London Knights, BISL|||
|N/A||Barbara Reynolds||Massage Therapist||Northern Ireland||Appointed in 2016|||
|No.||Player||Position||Acquired||Leaving For||Press Release|
|21||Liam Morgan||RW||2019||Manchester Storm, EIHL|||
|70||Curtis Hamilton||LW/RW||2019||Manchester Storm, EIHL|||
Retired jersey numbersEdit
- 4 Shane Johnson
- 11 Colin Ward
- 16 Rob Stewart
- 18 Graeme Walton
- 19 Colin Shields
- 27 Paxton Schulte
- 44 Todd Kelman
Notable former playersEdit
- 2 Brock Matheson
- 5 Will Colbert
- 5 Jérôme Gauthier-Leduc — former Buffalo Sabres draft pick, played for Belfast February–June 2017
- 9 Andrew Fournier
- 12 Kyle Baun — ex AHLer
- 14 Theoren Fleury — former Stanley Cup-winning NHL player
- 14 Daymen Rycroft
- 14 Mike Forney — 2015–17; former Atlanta Thrashers draft pick
- 15 Scott Champagne
- 15 Kevin Westgarth — former Stanley Cup-winning NHL player
- 15 Darcy Murphy — 2018–19 top EIHL points scorer (79)
- 17 Gregory Stewart
- 19 Colin Shields — EIHL all-time top points scorer and ex-Philadelphia Flyers draft pick
- 23 Alex Foster - 2016–17; ex-Toronto Maple Leafs NHLer
- 24 Noah Clarke
- 24 Jonathan Ferland — a one-time Montreal Canadiens draft pick
- 25 Blair Riley — 2016–19; ex-AHLer who also captained the Giants from 2017–2019
- 34 Tyler Beskorowany — a Dallas Stars draft pick in 2008
- 39 Patrick Dwyer — the ex-Carolina Hurricanes NHLer played for Belfast between 2018–19 before retiring
- 43 Derrick Walser — former NHL defenceman and Belfast player/coach 2015–17
- 50 Matt Nickerson — former NHL draft pick, played for Belfast for two seasons - 2015–17
- 83 Dustin Johner — a Florida Panthers draft pick in 2001
- 91 Nathan Robinson
|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
- Superleague Champions
- ISL First Team All-Star: Mike Bales, Rob Stewart, Kevin Riehl, Sean Berens, Jason Ruff
- Superleague Playoff Champions
- ISL First Team All-Star: Robby Sandrock, Paxton Schulte
- ISL Second Team All-Star: Ryan Bach, Kevin Riehl
- British Cross-League: 1st Place
- EIHL First Team All-Star: Tony Hand
- EIHL Second Team All-Star: Martin Klempa and George Awada
- Elite League Champions
- EIHL First Team All-Star: Theo Fleury and Ed Courtenay
- EIHL Second Team All-Star: Mike Minard, Todd Kelman and George Awada
- Vic Batchelder Memorial Trophy: Nathan Craze
- EIHL Challenge Cup Champions
- EIHL Knock Out Cup Champions
- EIHL First Team All-Star: Paul Deniset
- EIHL Play-off Champions
- EIHL First Team All-Star: Stephen Murphy and Colin Shields
- EIHL Second Team All-Star: Michael Jacobsen and Jeff Szwez
- Elite League Champions
- EIHL First Team All-Star: Stephen Murphy and Jeff Mason
- EIHL Second Team All-Star: Jeremy Rebek and Robert Dowd
- Erhardt Conference Winners
- EIHL Second Team All-Star: Robbie Sandrock
- Elite League Champions
- Erhardt Conference Winners
- EIHL First Team All-Star: Rob Sandrock, Calvin Elfring and Kevin Saurette
- EIHL Second Team All-Star: Stephen Murphy, Jeff Szwez and Evan Cheverie
- EIHL Challenge Cup Champions
- EIHL First Team All-Star: Sébastien Sylvestre
- "Belfast and Cardiff's NHL 20 ratings » Chasing The Puck". Chasing The Puck. 11 September 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
- "EIHL cancels all matches for rest of season". EIHL. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
- "EIHL Board Suspend 2020-21 Season". EIHL. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
- "No Elite League Season 2020/21". EIHL. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
- "Belfast Giants at". www.eliteprospects.com. Retrieved 1 July 2021.