The Belfast Giants’ battle to retain their Elite League title will pack a punch.
Coach Doug Christiansen has secured the return of tough guy Adam Keefe and the announcement of his return to the Odyssey Arena will send out a strong message to the rest of the league.
Keefe is a men not to be messed with having fought 13 times in 59 games last season as the Giants claimed the league championship — clocking up the fourth highest penalty minutes total in the league along the way.
In addition to that he contributed 13 goals and 18 assists and was also the top penalty killer on the league's best penalty killing unit.
Little wonder then that Christiansen branded the 28-year-old as ‘a player we must have’ rather than one he hoped would be back in Belfast for the 2012-13 season.
“I believe in order to win our league title you have to compete every day and Adam Keefe does that,” said Christiansen.
“He laid his body on the line night after night. He was one of our captains and leaders. He was on our top penalty kill unit and was not afraid to block shots to help the team.
“It takes heart and determination to win a title and those are Keefe's best attributes.”
Keefe is the second import to pledged another season to the Belfast Giants, with his line-mate from last season, Darryl Lloyd, confirming his return two weeks ago.
And that means one of Christiansen’s most effective combinations will be back together come September.
It is great to have the ‘Bash Brothers, back for another season,” said Christiansen.
The return of Keefe and Lloyd means that Christiansen is now half way towards completing the roster that he hopes can successfully defend the Elite League title, with nine players now signed and nine more import slots available.
Giants general manager Todd Kelman also believes that having Keefe and Lloyd back is good for the league as well as his own team.
“This league often lets their marketable stars slip away and often money being offered elsewhere is such a factor that we cannot help but say good bye to the star players that we all love watching,” he said.
“To get Keefe and Lloyd back is fantastic for us because I know that no matter who we are playing, there is never a dull games with those guys in the line-up.”