New Cardiff Devils forward Blair Riley said Andrew Lord’s team were the only one he would have moved to in the Elite League.
The 33-year-old left Belfast Giants, where he won two Challenge Cups and a league title to join the team expected to be their main challengers next season.
And he revealed he felt the time was right for him to move on after a successful three years in Northern Ireland, where he also captained the club.
“When the offer was made to me, it was the only team in the Elite League I would have moved over to,” he said. “They run a good organisation and are competitive.
“‘Lordo’ and Todd Kelman reached out to me some time after the season ended and they sold me on what they were looking to do and it felt right to me so I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. It’ll probably only really become real once I get over there and get settled into the city and see my new team-mates. At the same time, it’s exciting, it’s new and something for me to look forward to.
Well I guess it’s time for a profile update ..thanks for the warm welcome @cardiffdevils fans, the best wishes and farewells from @BelfastGiants fans and even the hate messages from some..If the fans weren’t passionate about their teams this game wouldn’t be nearly as fun
— Blair Riley (@Briles25) July 7, 2019
“It just felt like time to make a change after having three phenomenal years in Belfast and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about that organisation.
“I also had three great years with Keefe too – one as a player and the last two where he was my coach so it was all about deciding to do and go somewhere else.”
Riley’s move is one that’s naturally excited the Devils fans in the same way it’s frustrated the Giants, who is the eighth player to leave the championship winning side since April.
He’s already anticipating the sort of reaction he’ll get when he does return to the SSE Arena this season and insists some of the flack he’s taken online by fans is not being taken personally.
But he spoke of what impressed him about the Devils after three years of competing with them for the major honours as an opposition player.
He added: “The first thing that stood out for me playing against the Devils in the last three years was the compete level. The two teams went at last year for the league title and they had a team that played hard and stuck to a system.
“They tended to recruit a lot of talented players and have a good nucleus of guys that have been there for a few years now, winning things.
“But I’ve known all along just how passionate a fan base the Giants fans are and it was fun to play there and win.
“It was difficult when we weren’t having success and the fans expect to win. We celebrated the big moments, but got criticised by the negative things. That’s just what happens.
“The reaction to my move is not something I’m surprised by to be honest and I don’t take it personally. There are things people say on social media that’s entertaining for me and it makes it enjoyable.
“It also shows people care and I look forward to the response I’ll get when I go back to the SSE Arena. I made a lot of good friends too of course on and off the ice so it’ll be fun when I return there.”