Pelle aims to keep goal-den touch for Belfast Giants
When Doug Christiansen completed the capture of Jon Pelle back in June it was like all his Christmases had come at once.
And possibly a few birthdays thrown in too.
He unwrapped the fancy packaging to reveal the item that had been top of his wishlist — and pretty prominent on those of the other coaches in the Elite League — and watched his shiny new toy rev into action.
Christiansen’s heart sank, like that of every child would in the same circumstances, when 10 minutes later it stopped working.
There was nothing he could do to fix it. Nothing whatsoever.
Frustration? Yes, plenty of it too.
It took seven weeks for Pelle to return from the injury he picked up in a pre-season game against the Nottingham Panthers.
When he finally took to the ice in a Giants shirt for his competitive debut, Pelle did everything that he was meant to do.
Goals were expected when he signed and the 25-year-old delivered. Not just once, but three times in a dream debut against his old club, the Cardiff Devils.
The last man to score a hat-trick in his first game for the Giants was NHL legend Theo Fleury. Pelle may not match his Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal triumphs, but nothing can ever take away the fact that he’s matched Fleury in at least one way.
“I didn’t know that and I’m not sure about the comparisons, but it’s an honour to be mentioned in the same sentence as such an amazing player,” said Pelle.
“I didn’t have any expectations of myself before the game. I just wanted to try to contribute to a win and wasn’t thinking of scoring goals.
“I just wanted to get through the first period and I felt good after that. Getting even one goal was a bonus. Scoring three was amazing.”
So what does Pelle do for an encore?
If he can even come close to repeating that when the Giants face the Dundee Stars at the Odyssey Arena tonight then it’ll be a good night for him and the home fans.
Pelle wants to ensure there are many more good nights in Belfast between now and the end of the season, culminating in one of celebration around the end of March.
The Giants lacked a real prolific goalscorer last season, so Pelle was signed with the expectation that he’s the missing link.
“I didn’t come here to get another 60 goals and to lead the league in scoring again,” said Pelle.
“I wanted to come and contribute to a championship winning team.
“I experienced the same things as Doug and the other guys who were here last season, as both our teams finished a point short of winning the league.
“We’ve a lot of young guys here, but they are hungry and they know the importance of every game.
“We want to win all three trophies and every game is like a Play-off game. They are all ‘must-win.’
Recruiting Pelle from Cardiff was a double edged sword. Not only did the Giants capture the man who was the Elite League’s leading goal-getter last season, the signing also blunted the attacking threat of a title rival.
Rather than being head-hunted, as you might expect, it was the man from New York state who instigated the move to Belfast himself.
“At the end of the season I wanted to explore my options and I’d enjoyed playing in Belfast when I was with Cardiff,” said Pelle.
“I knew it was a good organisation that looks after its players and I spoke to a good friend Tommy Walsh, who played here and he sold it too me. He said he loved it here and he misses it.”
If Pelle can keep doing what he’s done so far then Belfast will love him back.