Giants helping to show the Elite League in good light: Garside
Following the Belfast Giants' recent success in Europe, forward Mark Garside believes they, plus the Cardiff Devils, are gaining the Elite League a better reputation across the continent.
The Giants have started their debut season in the Champions League (CHL) like a house on fire, stunning Czech heavyweights Bili Tygri Liberec at the SSE Arena in their first ever CHL game before only losing to German side Augsburger Panther in a heartbreaking overtime defeat on Saturday.
The Devils, meanwhile, have gone one better, defeating Czech side Mountfield HK in their opening game and then seeing off Austrian outfit Graz 99ers on penalty shots on Sunday.
That means the two British sides have amassed nine out of a possible 12 points from their combined four games so far ahead of their first away trips this week.
And Garside, who has played in the Elite League since 2006, is convinced that those strong results are signs that the league is continuing to improve year on year.
"We've certainly shown we can compete and we won't be rolling over in any games," insisted Garside ahead of the Giants' trip to Liberec on Thursday (6.45pm UK time), with the away game against Augsburg on Sunday.
"I don't know what those teams thought coming to the UK, but in the last 11 years in the Elite League there's been such a difference. We now have four lines of great players. When I first came here we had five defencemen and three lines, but now we have a squad that can go toe-to-toe with these guys."
The Scottish forward, who was returned to the defence for the defeat to Augsburg due to injury to Jesse Forsberg, also believes that the Giants will be well served for their league title defence by competing in the CHL.
With 13 new players on their roster this summer, the Giants have been forced to gel quickly as they gear up for another run at silverware, and Garside believes there's no better way to do that than by testing yourself against the best in Europe.
"When we play the big games against the likes of Cardiff, that's the kind of pace (the CHL) is," revealed the 30-year-old Great British international.
"It's fun to play those teams coming in here. They have a big budget, the pace is higher and you're really challenged. It's good to play."