The Belfast Giants have been nominated as European Club of the Year at the prestigious Fenix Outdoor & Warrior European Hockey Awards, organised by The Alliance of European Hockey Clubs (EHC).
The Giants are coming off an incredible season where they won both the Elite League and Challenge Cup titles, earning them a spot in next season’s Champions Hockey League.
Under head coach Adam Keefe, the team swept all before them in winning back-to-back titles across the Covid-19 pandemic and a third Challenge Cup title in four seasons, and they were one game away from a clean sweep of the play-offs as well.
But it is not just for their on-ice success that they have been nominated, but for their overall influence on the community where they have so much of an impact in helping bring together people from all walks of life.
The Giants have long been a uniting force in Northern Ireland, insisting that they remain neutral amidst the political divide, while also championing a message of inclusion for all.
This season the team have continued to help disadvantaged young people, too, such as Dáithí Mac Gabhann, Blake McCaughey and Ethan McClean, while coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic they have continued to attract an average crowd of 4,155.
The Giants are in prestigious company in being shortlisted for Club of the Year, where their competition will include CHL champions and SHL regular season winners Rögle BK.
Czech champions HC Oceláři Třinec, Finnish champions Tappara and Swiss champions EV Zug – who battled back from a 3-0 deficit in their final to win the title – are also nominated.
“As an organisation, we are honoured to be nominated for Club of the Year at the 2022 Fenix Outdoor Euro Hockey Awards,” said the Giants’ head of hockey operations Steve Thornton.
"To be recognised for our impact, both on and off the ice, alongside these top European clubs is an achievement in itself, and we look forward to the ceremony in Prague in June.”
The winners of the Awards will be revealed in Prague on June 15, in conjunction with the EHC's Annual General Meeting. Fans can cast their votes - which will be added to the EHC's expert panel's votes - by going to the EHC website.
Meanwhile, the Giants have discovered who they could face in the CHL next season after the tournament confirmed the seedings for the group stage draw, which takes place in Tampere, Finland on Tuesday May 25.
The Elite League champions will be in pot four as one of the ‘challenger league’ champions and they could be reunited with Swedish side Luleå, who are in pot one and whom they faced in the 2019 edition.
Each group will contain one team from each pot and can only contain one team per league, with the games getting under way in September.
CHAMPIONS HOCKEY LEAGUE GROUP STAGE POTS
Pot One: Rögle Ängelholm (Sweden), Färjestad Karlstad (Sweden), EV Zug (Switzerland), Eisbaren Berlin (Germany), Tappara Tampere (Finland), Oceláři Třinec (Czech Republic), Red Bull Salzburg (Austria), Luleå Hockey (Sweden)
Pot Two: Fribourg-Gottéron (Switzerland), Red Bull Munich (Germany), Jukurit Mikkeli (Finland), Mountfield HK (Czech Republic), Villach SV (Austria), Skellefteå AIK (Sweden), ZSC Lions Zurich (Switzerland), Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany)
Pot Three: Ilves Tampere (Finland), Sparta Prague (Czech Republic), Fehérvár AV19 (Hungary), Frölunda Gothenburg (Sweden), Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (Switzerland), Straubing Tigers (Germany), TPS (Finland), HC Davos (Switzerland)
Pot Four: BELFAST GIANTS (Northern Ireland), Grenoble (France), Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia), Stavanger Oilers (Norway), GKS Katowice (Poland), Aalborg Pirates (Denmark), Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia), Comarch Cracovia (Poland)