Jeremy Rebek’s experiences on and off the ice in Belfast bear a striking resemblance to each other.
He’s put in a lot of hard work since September, but it will all be worth it when tangible rewards are collected at the end.
Aside from captaining the Belfast Giants, Rebek is studying for a Masters degree through the club’s link-up with the University of Ulster.
The crucial period is looming in both strands. The 36-year-old is in control of what he achieves academically and while that will impact on what he does for the rest of his life, how the Giants’ season pans out over the next six weeks will determine how happy the memories of his time in Belfast are.
That, however, is something that he isn’t in control of.
Other people are involved in that and tonight the Nottingham Panthers will be doing all they can to stop the Giants taking a step towards the first part of what Rebek and his team-mates hope will be a trophy treble in the first leg of the Challenge Cup final at the Odyssey Arena.
“It’s been difficult at times to do everything, but that’s what it’s all about; that’s why I am here,” said Rebek.
“I came here to get my Masters, but I also came to Belfast because I knew this was an organisation that expects success.
“I’ve to keep working hard on and off the ice, every day, to make sure that all the work that I have put in is worthwhile — and that’s both in school and hockey.”
The Giants can win two trophies next week. The return meeting with Nottingham comes next Tuesday and if Doug Christiansen’s men collect four points against the Edinburgh Capitals in this weekend’s league double header in Scotland, they can win the league when the Sheffield Steelers come to Belfast on St Patrick’s weekend.
“This is a great opportunity for us as a team and it’s a new experience for me as well,” said Rebek.
“Where I’ve played before you don’t have cups that are decided mid-season, but we are looking forward to this final and the guys are pumped.
“We can make this a really enjoyable and memorable season. Being in with a chance of winning three trophies is a good situation.
“You never get sick of lifting trophies. I did it in Salzburg and it’s one of the best memories I have in hockey.
“We are in a situation where we can create memories that will last a lifetime. You never get to play with the same bunch of guys for more than one year, so we all want to leave Belfast — whenever that may be — and be able to look back and remember an amazing season.”
The Panthers will feel that the omens are on their side. Not only are they chasing a third successive Challenge Cup crown, they won it last season by beating the Giants.
“We’re approaching this like every game we’ve played this season and are just trying to win it,” said Rebek.
“It doesn’t matter so much about the outcome. If we win both games we win the cup and that’s it, but we know that Nottingham are a good team and they will be tough.”