Belfast Giants icon Shane Johnson helps to stoke the fire of Tridents
Published 25/07/2013 | 01:30
The rookies that will represent Northern Ireland in the ice hockey tournament at the World Police and Fire Games will benefit from the experience of the most decorated player in the Belfast Giants history.
When the Belfast Tridents take to the ice at the Odyssey Arena this evening they will do so with words of advice from Giants icon Shane Johnson ringing in their ears.
Some members of the team had never played ice hockey until two years ago when the squad was first assembled and trained in preparation for the Games.
And they will be thrown in at the deep end when they face Canadian opposition, the Toronto Courts.
Johnson, who until his retirement at the end of the 2010-11 season had been part of every one of the team's trophy successes and finished his career as the club's longest serving player, having played in the first ever game back in 2000, has played a major role in that preparation and he is as excited as any of the players.
"There is a mixture of skill levels, from guys who played when they were younger and then drifted away for a few years to others who when the opportunity came up to play in the World Police and Fire Games and wanted to be a part of it," said Johnson.
"Over the course of a couple of years they have turned up at practices, worked hard and pushed themselves to get to a level where they are able to prove that they can compete in a tournament like this.
"It is exciting to see how these guys have progressed.
"They want to be involved because they have a passion for sport in general and for hockey in particular."
The players will also tackle a busy schedule, with six games in just five days.
"There is a great camaraderie in these Games because everyone involved comes from basically the same kind of professional background," said Johnson.
"It will be competitive, everyone will be trying to win, but there will be a lot of respect between the players and the most important thing for them is to have fun."