Giants use NCAA tournament to widen international appeal

Belfast Giants will use November’s Friendship Four tournament to help promote Northern Ireland to an international audience.

Four NCAA ice hockey teams – the University of Massachusetts, Quinnipiac University, the University of Vermont and St Lawrence University – will compete at the SSE Arena for the Belpot Trophy as well as for league points.

Headline sponsors Northern Irish Connections will use the two-day event to forge links with the six million people living in the United States who are originally from or who have ties with Northern Ireland.

Steve Thornton (above right), Giants’ Head of Hockey Operations, said: “We are looking forward to building on the success of last year’s Friendship Four tournament.

“There are plenty of synergies between ourselves and Northern Irish Connections, with both organisations wanting to highlight the best that Northern Ireland has to offer.

“Ice hockey has become an integral part of the culture in our country and now will support our collective aim to promote Northern Ireland on an international scale.”

Andrew Cowan, chief executive of Northern Irish Connections, added: “The Friendship Four captivated American fans last year with the university teams playing competitively outside of the country for the first time.

“We saw this as an ideal vehicle to support our diaspora network in what is a key market for Northern Ireland and a great focal point around which to host and attract back some of our most important influencers.”

Northern Irish Connections is supported by its membership which includes Belfast Harbour, Invest Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland.

The tournament takes place over Thanksgiving weekend on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November.

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