Todd Kelman has made Giant contribution
Former Belfast Giants record appearance holder Todd Kelman has severed his 14-year-long tie to the club in an emotional farewell to the fans.
After seven years as a player, followed by another seven as General Manager, Kelman is part of a consortium led by his long-term friend, Canadian businessman Steve King, on the verge of becoming the owners of the Giants' Elite League rivals, the Cardiff Devils.
The news sent shockwaves through the Giants fanbase, who remember that Kelman made a telling impact while in charge of the day-to-day running of the club, particularly when the very future of the Giants was in the balance less than 18 months ago when the Odyssey Trust stepped in to become the owners after the plug was pulled on American businessman Chris Knight's takeover attempt.
In a statement, which ran to more than 1,600 words, Kelman said: "I am so proud of the fans here. I am so proud of what you have made this team into.
"I am so proud of how you stuck by this team and lifted us up during the bad times and how you cheered and we celebrated together during the good times."
Steve Thornton, who Kelman brought back as coach of the Giants less than two months ago, will now have added responsibility and the outgoing GM believes the club is in safe hands moving forward.
"Steve Thornton was brought in to take over not only the head coaching role, but also the majority of the business role of General Manager," revealed Kelman.
"I was moving on to a more commercial role within the larger organisation of the Odyssey.
"I was still going to be in charge of sponsorship for the team, but not involved in the day-to-day operations of the team.
"That is one of the big reasons we wanted Thornton in. He is the only guy I know that has as much business savvy as he does hockey smarts.
"He is the whole package and will take new ideas and continue to build on our success and grow this team on and off the ice."
Thornton, who remains the only Giants coach to win two trophies in one season, will now take on a heavier workload than in his first spell in charge, from 2008 to 2010, but has no concerns that it will impact negatively on the team's on-ice performances.
"Coaching the team is the part that I enjoy, the recruitment of players, which Todd has always played a big part in, is one aspect of the job that I take real pride in – when I was here before I spent more hours working during the summer on that than I did during the season," said Thornton.
"We didn't have the support staff around us then and Todd and I did the office work together, so I was more than just a coach then.
"My role now is as it is as director of hockey operations and I didn't come back here just to coach.
"I knew that Todd was looking at other options and while it has been a big surprise for some people, it has been less so for me – although the timing did surprise me.
"The contingency plans have already been put in place and there will be no gaps in the organisation.
"Everyone knows what I thought of our previous owner Jim Gillespie, he was fantastic to work for, but the club is in safer hands than ever with the Odyssey Trust in charge," commented Thornton.
Robert Fitzpatrick, chief executive of the Odyssey Trust, said: "Todd has been with the Giants since day one and he will be missed, but this team is defending a league title and we have a great core of guys back with the man we identified to take over in charge of the Giants."
Kelman will continue to work for the Giants for another few weeks and will formally say his goodbyes to the Belfast fans at an event in W5 on Monday evening.
"I never thought I would work for the Belfast Giants for 14 years, certainly I never dreamed I would get to be the General Manager of this great club for as long as I have been," he added.
"I know in the past I have said that no matter what, this team can never matter as much to all of us that played here as it does to all of you ... but I'm telling you from the bottom of my heart, it meant more to me."