Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Giants in league of their own

By Stuart McKinley

It’s fans that keep competitive sport going. And those who pay their money at the turnstiles want it to be just that — competitive.

The biggest thrill factor, no matter what the sports, is heading out or tuning in not knowing who is going to win a particular contest.

If the outcome is beyond doubt even before the start then the excitement level plummets.

We’ve seen during the pool stages of the rugby World Cup how dull sport can become when matches end up so one-sided. At least the real action is about to start in New Zealand.

This weekend the Belfast Giants head to Scotland for two games against the teams who are currently lying at the foot of the Elite League table.

A week ago the Giants hammered tonight’s opponents, the Fife Flyers, 9-1 at the Odyssey and the Edinburgh Capitals — who Doug Christiansen’s men face tomorrow — left Belfast on the end of an 8-1 lashing just a few days earlier.

The Flyers — who are new to the Elite League this season — and Capitals have just a single point between them this season, although Fife did beat Edinburgh in a Challenge Cup game last weekend.

Are they just making up the numbers or will the two teams from the east of Scotland be taking points off the title challengers sooner rather than later?

“There is no doubt that Fife and Edinburgh are struggling right now,” said Giants coach Christiansen.

“Fife coach Todd Dutiaume has said that he expected his team to be better and that they’ve found the step up to the Elite League tough.”

When the old Superleague was on the verge of collapse during the 2002-03 season there were only five teams left in it, Belfast, Not

tingham, Sheffield, the Bracknell Bees and London Knights. Fans got fed up seeing the same teams over and over again, but the league was hard fought and it was only on the final night that Sheffield pipped the Giants to the crown.

Is less more?

Nobody was on the edge of their seat at the Odyssey last Friday night as the Giants fired nine goals past the hapless Flyers, whereas if the Giants, the Steelers, Panthers, Cardiff Devils and Coventry Blaze were in a league of their own every game would be a battle.

“I compare our league to the Premier League in football,” said Christiansen.

“The top teams are always going to be the top teams and if one of the big clubs is languishing at the bottom of the league then you don’t have your big ‘Super Sunday’ when they play each other on television.

“What you always hope to see is that there is a Wigan who can go out on any matchday and produce a surprise result.”

It’s hard enough for teams with low budgets to compete with the big boys, but when the tops sides take their best players, like Christiansen did when he brought Mark Garside with him from Edinburgh to Belfast in the summer of 2010, it becomes even more difficult.

“Both Edinburgh and Fife have good import players and it’s no secret that we made an offer to Matt Siddall before he decided to sign for Fife,” said Christiansen.

“They don’t have a full compliment of imports though and that makes things difficult.

“The real issue for them is their depth — and British depth at that.

“We have had Craig Peacock, Robert Dowd and Mark Garside scoring goals for us this season and Stephen Murphy is our most valuable player.

“Fife and Edinburgh don’t have that standard of British player, but like any game, we can’t take them lightly. We have to hope they’ll beat some of the top teams, but not starting this weekend.”

Belfast Telegraph

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