Fancy a night with a difference in Belfast? Why not take in a thrilling night's entertainment by watching the Belfast Giants Ice Hockey team? Ice Hockey is a game of great skill, pace and power, and features six players per team on a pitch, five outfield players and one goaltender, who battle for supremacy by scoring points with a flying puck! Interested?
The Belfast Giants are a successful ice hockey team that compete in the Elite Ice Hockey League, which features the cream of ice hockey's talent and covers the United Kingdom area including Northern Ireland.
The League is professional, and is the highest level of ice hockey in the region, in essence a premier league featuring ten teams. The League is sponsored by Air Travel provider Bmibaby.
The Belfast Giants were formed in 2000, and are currently sponsored by lager producers Coors - previously they were sponsored by Harp Lager.
It's true to state that in the past, the ugly face of sectarianism has long cast a shadow over sport in Belfast, in particular in the world of soccer. Because of this the founders of the Belfast Giants were keen that the team were independent of the religious divide, and wanted to represent the city as a whole, which is a sure sign of changing attitudes in the city.
The team play their home games at the impressive 7,000 capacity Odyssey Arena at 2 Queens Quay, Belfast, in the arena part of the spectacular venue.
The Giants management have adopted a policy of non-sectarianism for these home matches - fans are not permitted to wear soccer jerseys or bring their national flags to games. This is to alleviate any tensions that might evaporate. This policy has been successful, and the team is known for its exciting style of play rather than any political leanings.
The Giants play in Red, Black, White and Teal jerseys, and wear black helmets, and have 5 sponsor logos. The team logo features legendary giant Irish hero Fionn McCool (who is said to have resided in the Giants Causeway) with a hockey stick! The team's motto is "In the land of the Giant, everyone is the same" which sums up their "non-sectarian" ethos.
The present team captain is George Awada, head coach and current player is Steve Thornton, and the General Manager being Todd Kelman. The Club is owned and run by Jim Gillespie & Tom and Donna Mallon.
Some of the team were originally members of the former Superleague and won the title in 2001-02. However, the league ran into financial difficulties, as did the Belfast Giants. The Giants had run up sunstantial debts of over i600,000, and were threatened with closure.
After a major salvation plan by the club's creditors, the club survived and competed in the new Elite Ice Hockey League in 2004. That was a poor season for the Giants though, but it was a period of consolidation. In the 2005 season, the Giants revived themselves to finish runners up to Coventry Blaze, one of the forerunners in the league, and they won the League Cup.
In 2005, the Giants cemented themselves as one of the major players in the Elite League, with the inspired signing of Theoren Fleury, Canadian NHL and Olympic Gold winner. The Coors Giants (as they are known) have had several former NHL players like Jason Bowen and Paul Kruse on their books at particular times.
In 2006, the team romped to victory in the Elite League, coached by Ed Courtenay, with Fleury the star player, amassing a total of 81 points, one of the highest in a season. After finishing runners up in 2006-07, the Giants had a poor season in 2007-08, and this led to Courtenay departing as his contract ran out.
Nevertheless, the Giants have a popular fan base, and home games at the Odyssey Arena are often sell outs. You may not be aware that the team have two supporters clubs, a testimony to their popularity and talent!
The 2008-09 Season
For this season, the club has a new coach, current player Steve Thornton, a Canadian who has had a distinguished career in Europe. He replaces former coach Ed Courtenay, who left at the end of last season.
The Giants have won 13 matches this season out of 16, and are well placed for a winter assault on the title. Last weekend, they defeated the Sheffield Steelers 3-2 (after shootout) & beat Edinburgh Capitals 5-2 to move into 4th position. This Friday 28th November, the Belfast Giants have a home game against Coventry Blaze and on Sunday they travel away to Hull Stingrays.
To purchase tickets for any of the upcoming matches featuring the Belfast Giants visit Ticketmaster.
So what are you waiting for! Face off time for all of the Belfast Giants home matches is at 7.30pm. Why not support this team of character and passion after your day exploring Belfast and the many attractions it has to offer?
Mairead Foley writes for the Ireland travel and accommodation website http://www.GoIreland.com where you can book quality approved Belfast accommodation including hotels in Belfast.