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Belfast Giants games to be shown live as Elite League agree TV deal

By Adam McKendry

The Belfast Giants will be hitting free-to-air TV for the next two years after the Elite Ice Hockey League agreed a broadcast deal with FreeSports UK.

The channel, which is run by Premier Sports - which will this year show all of Ulster Rugby's Guinness PRO14 matches live - will show a live EIHL game every other week in accordance with the new deal.

In weeks without a live game there will be a highlights show on a Wednesday night, while the channel will also produce a pre-season preview show for fans to look forward to.

It means fans who can't make it to the SSE Arena or to away games will get the chance to enjoy the Belfast Giants live for free, with all 11 teams in the league given equal coverage.

“I’m delighted we’ve been able to agree a deal with Free Sports to show free ice hockey to fans on television,” said EIHL chairman Tony Smith.

“With the success of the Great Britain national team, one of our young players, Liam Kirk, drafted to the NHL and the standard increasing every year, it’s something we were keen to tie up.

“Free Sports’ relationship with the sport, particularly in this country, is a healthy one and I’m pleased to see the Elite League join that stable in helping promote top level ice hockey from the UK.

“I want to thank Free Sports for their professionalism in these negotiations and on behalf of the league, we’re very much looking forward to working with them.”

Well-known commentator Aaron Murphy will spearhead the coverage and will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role having worked at the Winter Olympics, NHL and the World Championships.

“It’s brilliant to see the EIHL coming back to our TV screens, joining a great stable of hockey alongside the CHL, NHL, KHL, SHL and IIHF events on Free Sports,” Murphy said.

“The league has been getting better every year, with the level on the ice now at a point where huge European teams in the CHL are defeated by EIHL clubs regularly.

“For fans to be able to see more of that in the domestic competition is a positive step forward. On the back of the Team GB success as well, it’ll be nice for people to see those players suit up for their club as well as the national side.

“I can’t wait to get back calling the games, as I always enjoyed broadcasting the EIHL in the past. This new chapter will be fantastic on free to air TV and we aim to expose the league to new viewers who will hopefully become part of the passionate fan bases of all 11 teams.

“It’s going to be a fun season, with plenty of storylines and excitement, and we can’t wait to get going on Free Sports.”

Richard Webb, operations director at Free Sports, added: “Our Ice Hockey coverage on Free Sports continues to grow and we’re delighted to have the Elite Ice Hockey League on board.”

“Our channel has showed a wealth of ice hockey over the past 12 months including monumental successes for the GB Ice Hockey team, at senior, u18s and u20s level.”

“This is great deal for the fans to enjoy even more of the best British ice hockey has to offer and we can’t wait for the new season.”

FreeSports also provide coverage of the National Hockey League, the top ice hockey league in the world, and the IIHF World Championships, and will show 21 live Guinness PRO14 matches this season.

It is available for Sky, Virgin, Freeview, FreeSat, TalkTalk and BT Vision customers.

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