Balnamore ice hockey player helps Belfast Giants clinch title

17/3/12: The Belfast Giants celebrate with the Monteith Bowl after being crowned Elite Ice Hockey League Champions. Picture: Michael Cooper
17/3/12: The Belfast Giants celebrate with the Monteith Bowl after being crowned Elite Ice Hockey League Champions. Picture: Michael Cooper

It was a memorable weekend for Balnamore’s Belfast Giants star Andrew Dickson. Over 12,000 supporters packed the Odyssey Arena to witness two wins over the Sheffield Steelers, the first on Friday night clinched the Elite League title and in spite of the celebrations that followed Doug Christiansen’s side still put on a show on Saturday to ensure the trophy presentation that followed was no anti-climax.

Netminder Andrew, 24, played an integral role when he took to the ice as a substitute goalie to see out the victory.

The delighted ice hockey star: “It’s absolutely fantastic and I’m still taking it all in. It’s just an achievement getting on the team. It’s a big thing, it’s hard for anyone coming from outside Belfast where there’s no ice rink. ”

This is Andrew’s first season as a first team regular and he played nine or ten games as the deputy goalie.

Last year he played for the Invicta Dynamos in England following a spell as the Giants third keeper.

Andrew got into the sport by playing roller hockey for the Ballymoney Badgers and it has been a considerable achievement to make to the professional ice hockey ranks.

It was the third league championship in 12 seasons for the Giants so they don’t come around often and from the top of the organization downwards it was deserved reward for a lot of hard work. From the owner, businessman Jim Gillespie, whose investment is not just financial but also his time and passion for the sport and the fans to General Manager Todd Kelman, an original Giants player, who now runs the marketing, sponsorship and promotional side of the franchise and who successfully makes the business work to coach Christiansen who in his second season has brought the title back to Belfast and to his players who provided the special memories over 50-plus games.

“Jim is the umbrella we all work under and it’s his ethos on what it means to be a Giant and how you conduct yourself and how you treat people and what the role is for the team in the community that we all embrace and this was a special weekend for him and Todd to have the building full to share those moments and then for the team to have the year that we did, it was a classy and competitive way to do it.

“There was so much riding on this weekend that you didn’t want anything to go wrong and the players didn’t let that happen.

“No one was going to stop us; it was awesome. It’s been a phenomenal season and a phenomenal group of men,” explained Christiansen, who won his first championship as a coach.

“The atmosphere was electric, the crowd was into the game on Friday night from the opening drop of the puck.

“They were positive when Sheffield scored and they continuously lifted the players and in the third period when we began sensing the moment was upon us they embraced it and the players shared that moment with the fans and that’s why they came to Belfast.”