Belfast Giants’ Director of Hockey Operations Steve Thornton has announced their players are free to find other opportunities as uncertainty over this season’s Elite League grows.
The Northern Irish side, who won the last completed league championship in 2019, have joined Cardiff Devils, Manchester Storm and Glasgow Clan in announcing their stance regarding their players.
The Giants hadn’t announced any signings in what has been a quiet summer for them, but Thornton revealed it was made clear to their recruits at an early stage to take any other opportunities that came up.
“Due to the constantly evolving situation, we informed our players very early during this pandemic that we were not going to hold them back from finding other opportunities and we have been keeping them updated with our conversations with the Elite League Board,” Thornton said in a statement on the Giants website.
“Covid-19 has rocked all our worlds. This pandemic has been challenging for all of us all in different ways. While hockey is our world and we are disappointed not to be playing right now, we do understand that there are factors far bigger that must take priority, not just here in Belfast but on a global scale.
One thing is certain. Whenever we’re able to get on the ice for our first game back at the SSE in front of the #TealArmy it is going to be a special moment for everyone. I cannot wait. Stay safe Belfast. #GiantsWillBeBack #WeAreGiants https://t.co/j8efyR5iGY
— Adam Keefe (@Adam27Keefe) September 7, 2020
“You will have seen the Elite League plans to make an announcement on 15th September around the 2020/21 season and whether it will be able to start, as planned, on 5th December.
“We have been working hard behind the scenes, making plans for all eventualities and we will share our game plan with you directly, as soon as the League makes its decision.
“We would like to thank you, our fans, and in particular, our season ticket holders, for your patience and continued backing. You are the backbone of this club and we need your support now more than ever.”
Giants, unlike their Elite League contemporaries, have kept a low profile this summer as they work towards whatever the outcome is in terms of whether or not there’s a league season to come in the face of challenging times.
No signings had been announced, whether it was new players or players returning to play under coach Adam Keefe so who is affected is unknown.
But Thornton reckoned the decision stands at ’50/50’ when the teams meet to decide next Tuesday to decide the fate of the 2020/21 season.
He added: “If the season doesn’t happen, then we will have various options available to you. We’re also exploring ways that we can keep that unmistakable Giants community spirit alive and well, with a range of exclusive fan events and initiatives.
“We miss hockey nights at The SSE Arena with you, the best fans in the league and we will do everything we can to get back as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we ask that you stay safe and keep an eye on each other as we continue to fight Covid-19 together by staying apart.he league will now convene in a couple of weeks time to decide.
“Whether it does go ahead in some capacity remains 50/50, but it will be a huge decision for the future of the clubs whatever the outcome.”