Belfast Giants push for more glory
Trophy-hungry Belfast Giants captain Adam Keefe flew into Northern Ireland with the Montieth Bowl on his lap yesterday.
After being crowned Elite League champions on Sunday night Keefe is now on a mission to make history by making the 2013-14 season the most successful in the team's history.
And that means emulating the Nottingham Panthers' achievements of last season by adding the Challenge Cup and Play-off championship to the league title.
The Giants have never won another trophy alongside any of their previous three league victories and that's a statistic that Keefe is determined to change within the next six weeks.
"We'll celebrate this and enjoy it for a few days – we deserve to and you should enjoy these times," said Keefe.
"We've won one trophy, but I want all three and we'll be going all out to get all three.
"When the Challenge Cup final comes around, we'll be ready to go again.
"Nottingham did it last year and they proved that they were the best team.
"There's no reason why we can't do it this year. We are a top team, we've won the league and now we want to prove it to everyone by winning all three trophies."
The Giants players were eating their post-match meal in Nottingham city centre after beating the Panthers 3-1 when they found out that both the Dundee Stars and Sheffield Steelers had lost, meaning that they were champions. That sparked a party, with the Bowl then brought along as the special guest.
"Nottingham had already conceded the league to us and they said that if we won it we could take the trophy," revealed Keefe.
"When we won it our equipment manager, Jason Ellery, went back to the arena and brought it back. I don't want to let it go now."
Keefe will officially lift the glittering silverware at the Odyssey after Friday night's match against Coventry Blaze.
There will be a party atmosphere, with the Giants organisation expecting a bumper crowd to partake in the celebrations.
It has been anticipated that the team would be playing to win the title on Friday, but the nature of the way they clinched the league – while sitting in a restaurant – didn't take away from anything for Keefe.
"I'm feeling wonderful," said the 29-year-old.
"It's an amazing feeling. It's different from when we won it in my first year in Belfast when we won a big game against the team that was chasing us to clinch it.
"We have been consistent all year and that's what you have to do to win a championship.
"Guys have made sacrifices this season.
"A lot of them have played through injuries and that has paid off."
And Keefe reserved special praise for two of his team-mates in particular.
"If you're looking for unsung heroes then you have to give credit to Stephen Murphy and Dustin Whitecotton. Those guys have played so well all year," said Keefe.
"We shouldn't be surprised about Stephen Murphy. We know the way he can play and he has brought his best game so many nights this season."
Meanwhile, Todd Kelman revealed that he put his emotions to one side when he appointed Paul Adey as coach of the Giants last May.
The club's general manager had played for both the Giants and Bracknell Bees under Dave Whistle, who declared a strong interest in returning to the Odyssey after Doug Christiansen left to become coach of the Sheffield Steelers.
Instead of making an easy decision that would have been popular with the fans, Kelman shocked supporters by handing Adey the job.
He had been in charge of the Nottingham Panthers during the 2002-03 season when every encounter with the Giants became a grudge match after an ugly brawl at the Odyssey when Panthers' Barry Nieckar stripped off his own shirt and attacked the Giants' Paxton Schulte.
The Panthers management had much more to do with the style and make up of that team than Adey ever did though. Kelman knew that he wasn't appointing a one-dimensional coach and that has been proved with Adey now becoming the fourth coach to win a league title with the Giants.
"I wanted an experienced coach who was going to be a steady hand," said Kelman.
"In the end I went with my gut.
"My heart was saying Dave Whistle, but my head and my gut told me Paul Adey was the right man and that's the decision I had to make. Paul has experience of coaching good teams in Europe and he has a good record of success.
"The way he coaches is great. He knows when the guys need some time off and he doesn't get involved in things that he doesn't need to. He gives them the freedom they need to go and play. He knows that they will make mistakes, but works on doing things the right way rather than focusing on what's gone wrong and that's why he has been successful."
Kelman was at home in Belfast on Sunday night as the Giants were confirmed as league champions rather than being with the team in Nottingham.
He was, however, the first person connected with the club to find out that the league had been won.
"I bought the Cardiff Devils webcast when I saw that the game had gone to overtime," he revealed.
"I paid £8 to watch five minutes plus the penalty shots, but it was worth it."
Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has congratulated the Giants on winning the Elite league for the fourth time.
The minister said: "I would like to congratulate Paul Adey and his team on being crowned champions once again. This is a brilliant achievement especially with 10 league games still to be played.
"The Giants have a superb following here and I am sure that the crowd will give them a fantastic welcome home on Friday evening when they return to play at the Odyssey."