On the eve of pre-season, Gary Jackson ponders on how nostalgia for those gone before should not cloud the excitement of what is potentially ahead.
So the much rumoured Liam Reddox was finally announced as the final piece in the 2019/20, defending double Challenge Cup, defending Erhardt Conference, defending Elite League Champions, 20th anniversary Belfast Giants Squad.
A group of lads from all over North America and Europe converge on Belfast to wear your teal white and red, to wear your logo on their chest, to represent you. This off season is the first in quite some time that has seen a complete overhaul in the squad. Very few players in this squad have played 2 or more seasons in Belfast. There are very good arguments in keeping continuity, keeping a core of players together, especially coming of the back of a season like Giants have just had. But this is sport, and there is no room for nostalgia or emotion in making decisions.
Belfast Giants twitter and Official web site put up a post thanking the players from the previous class for their work, professionalism and sheer determination in what was the most successful Giants single season ever. And I’d like to add my own tip of the hat to what was one of, if not the most entertaining seasons I have witnessed in 19 years.
Feels weird seeing the Giants roster without a #19 on it.
— Thomas Brownlee (@Doctor_Thomas) August 6, 2019
I saw this tweet earlier and it made me think. #19 of course referring to the all-time leading everything Colin Shields. Sheds first joined the Belfast squad in the third season of the EIHL and in a few short weeks the puck drops on the 17th season of the competition. For many of the Odyssey faithful they know nothing else but having Scotland’s answer to Graeme McDowell line up most years.
For me, Colin epitomised everything it meant to represent this great city, even captaining the side at one point, we became friends over the years and he taught me things about the nuances of the game that I wouldn’t have even thought about. This article, however, is not about Colin Shields, it is about remaining hopeful about the future, about the name on the front of the jersey being more than the name on the back, the club being bigger than any single player.
We as a fan base have never had a player with so many goals, so many important goals, or so many appearances leave the club. This is uncharted territory.
Or is it?
I remember March 2004 coming home from the final game of the 03/04 season having watched Giants miss out on the playoff final weekend, and having watched Colin Ward and Paxton Schulte’s shirts get raised to the rafters at the Odyssey. They had been the public face of the Giants organisation since the first game, two players that were usually put up for interviews, fluff pieces on UTV live, radio interviews you name it. I remember sitting at home that night with my then partner and finishing off a beer and just saying “it’s not going to be the same.”
It’s easier to roll out the “no one is bigger than the club,” “the name on the front is bigger than the name on the back,” when it’s a one season star player leaving. It’s something else when it’s a bona fide club legend. We have examples of how the club is a living thing and it evolves and adapts when these legends move on or retire: Shane Johnson, Graham Walton, Todd Kelman, Paxton and Wardy all have their names at the Bridge end as a reminder. Kevin Riehl, George Awada, Jason Ruff, Adam Keefe, Darryl Lloyd, Evan Cheverie, Jeff Mason, the list goes on. Each of the players, and some I have over looked no doubt, have all contributed things over the years; be it a penalty shot winning trophies, team toughness, leadership, willingness to crash through concrete walls for the badge, sound defensive play, god-like skill, an unexplained dampness (one for the kids) or even just solid reliability, they all have one thing in common. When they left, for whatever reason, the world did not end.
The backroom staff, no matter who it was, have done sterling work in making sure while we rightfully remember these guys fondly, we don’t sit in a pool of nostalgia. We get new heroes to worship every week, year on year.
And this year is no different, I mean, just look at this roster, look at it! It is stacked. Four fully capable lines, a solid netminder, a lunatic on the bench, could you actually ask for more?
I mentioned previously that last season was the most entertaining season I’ve witnessed certainly in a long time, but looking at this team I can’t help but think that it has the potential to possibly trump it.
The era of Colin Shields is over, don’t be sad its over be happy you were there to witness it, and know that our next hero may just be on this season’s roster.
Gary got in touch with us to share his thoughts by e-mailing us a KotG.
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PODCAST: Off Season Special – August 2019 – Ben Lake, Adam Robinson, Matt Pelech, Kevin Raine and Adam Keefe join the lads as they cast an eye over the new look Belfast Giants roster.
A View From The Bridge Podcast, Official Podcast of the Belfast Giants, part of Kingdom Of The Giants.
Picture: William Cherry / PressEye