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James Desmarais relishes his new challenge with the Belfast Giants

By Stuart McKinley

Published 20/05/2015

New face: James Desmarais has signed up for two years in Belfast
New face: James Desmarais has signed up for two years in Belfast

James Desmarais has scratched his seven-year itch by swapping Switzerland for Northern Ireland.

The 36-year-old Canadian has spent nine seasons playing in the Swiss B League, the last seven with Ajoie.

He will devote the next two years to the Belfast Giants after agreeing a deal as part of the club's link with the University of Ulster.

Desmarais could have stayed in his comfort zone in Switzerland, but instead he decided that there was more of Europe to see before he finishes his career.

"It was time for a change," said Desmarais. "At first I was very interested because of the university programme, but the more I talked to Steve (Thornton) and the closer I got to signing the more I realised just how good the league is.

"Now I am more excited about the hockey part. They are putting together a good team here.

"I didn't know much about the league at all, but I spoke to a couple of players who have played here and I think this was the best option for me.

"I could have stayed in Switzerland with another team, but I had to make a decision and I became more and more excited about it as things moved on."

Drafted by the St Louis Blues back in 1999, Desmarais also played in Austria, where he came up against recently retired Giant Robby Sandrock.

Now that he has gone and Calvin Elfring is also likely to call it a day, Desmarais will bring some welcome experience to the Giants roster as they go about trying to win back the Elite League title.

"He's played in a great league in Switzerland where there is a lot of pressure and he has led the league in scoring on multiple seasons, including last season," said Giants coach Steve Thornton. "He can create offence, he is extremely gifted on the powerplay and he's proven."

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