Belfast Giants: Shane Johnson's exciting Odyssey drawing to a close
Shane Johnson has experienced the highs of Play-off victory before — and now he wants to finish off his career with a repeat.
Johnson is one of only two surviving players who were in the Belfast Giants team when they won their only previous Play-off title seven years ago — with player-coach Steve Thornton the other.
Thornton is set to focus solely on coaching next season and Johnson will be taking a seat among the fans at the Odyssey after announcing his retirement.
He has one more wish though before the skates are hung up and that’s to go out on a high, not only by beating the Newcastle Vipers in what will be his final appearance at the Odyssey tonight, but also by lifting the Play-off trophy after his last game as a professional.
And it’s four games — and four wins — rather than two or three that Johnson wants to sign off with.
Victory against Newcastle over two legs this weekend is needed if the Giants are to go to Nottingham for the Easter weekend Play-off finals and after missing out on the Elite League title there is no way the Giants will accept finishing the season without a trophy.
“Retirement has been on the radar for two or three years and now the time has come,” said Johnson, who scored twice when the Giants beat the London Knights in that 2003 final.
“When we won the Play-offs seven years ago it was the last year of the old Superleague, a lot of guys moved on and one or two retired after that.
“They finished on a high and that’s what I want to do as well.
“The Belfast Giants have been my life for a decade and it’ll be emotional on Saturday night when I play my last game in Belfast, but I’ll be back and if the team wants me to fill water bottles next season I’ll be happy to do it,” he added.
As one of the original Giants
Johnson will quit as the club’s record appearance maker, despite spending a season away from the Odyssey when Ed Courtenay decided on a change of approach before bringing him back a year later.
Johnson has been involved in every trophy success that the team has enjoyed and one more triumph will see him end a remarkable decade with satisfaction.
“Winning the Play-offs would be a great way for me to finish my career,” said Johnson.
“It would bring great closure to a wonderful 10 years with the team.
“I never imagined I would be here 10 years, but I met a local girl, got married and now Belfast is my home.
“Dave Whistle said to us at Bracknell that he was going to a new team in Belfast, that it would be good and to trust him.
“We did and we were right to trust him.”
Sean McMorrow won’t be back in the Giants line-up either this weekend or next, if they make it to the finals in Nottingham.
He is staying in the United States as he attempts to clear his name after being linked to a drug trafficking offence.
A return next season is still a possibility if he is successful in defending the allegations.