Craig Peacock is relishing the titanic battles that await the Belfast Giants at the start of their Eltie League title defence.
Rather than fearing the testing schedule that awaits in September, the Great Britain international believes that the big games will immediately send a signal to the new players signed by coach Doug Christiansen of what is to come over the ensuing seven months.
The league title defence starts with an away double-header in Nottingham in mid-September and, as if that isn’t tough enough, two weeks later they travel to Sheffield and then Cardiff on consecutive nights.
With the league splitting into two conferences for the first time, it isn’t until mid-October that the Giants have a home game against a team from their own section.
“We are the champions, but it’s going to be a lot tougher this year with the conference system in place,” said Peacock.
“You don’t have to look any further than the first weekend of the season to see that.
“We all know how tough it is going to Nottingham and they will want to make an impact early on.
“It’s good for us that we have games like that early on. We’ve only signed one new import so far, but there will be more and having these tough road games right off the bat will let them see the level of competition.”
The Giants will warm-up for their title defence with a pre-season game against the Tilburg Trappers, from Holland, on Saturday September 1, with the first competitive game a week later being a Challenge Cup tie away to Braehead.
The first home game of the season is a Thursday night meeting with Dundee on September 20 and it isn’t until the end of the first month of the season that there is a Saturday home game — against Braehead.
The end of the season is just as mouth-watering as the beginning, with a home double-header with the Nottingham Panthers on St Patrick’s weekend before the campaign climaxes with away games in Coventry and Sheffield.
“The first two dates I looked at were the first weekend of the season and the last and both really jumped out at me,” said Peacock.
“It’s no different to last year though when the last few weeks were loaded with games against the top team.
“It’d be nice if we could have it won before then.”