Belfast Telegraph

Higgins' delight at Giants return

 

Raring to go: Chris Higgins has come out of retirement to play for the Belfast Giants
Raring to go: Chris Higgins has come out of retirement to play for the Belfast Giants
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Given the number of people that were clamouring for him to return to Belfast, it's almost surprising it's taken Chris Higgins this long to rejoin the side.

To say that the 'Belfast Datsyuk' had his phone blowing up might be an understatement given there were, at one point, three people trying to convince him to come out of retirement for a second stint in Belfast.

It's not that surprising though given that the American scored 60 goals and 164 points in 156 games and was a much-loved player among the fans.

So when the untimely departure of Francis Beauvillier saw the Giants dip back into the market for a new forward last month, the call came again.

This time, it was a yes.

"Keefer, Thornts and I, we've been talking ever since I retired and talks got pretty serious over the last few months," says Higgins.

"I got skating more back in Boston, I began to miss it and felt I had more to give.

"They always said I retired prematurely!"

His retirement back at the end of the 2016-17 season came as a shock given at the time he was only 31 and came off a season where he averaged well over a point a game for the Giants.

At the time, head coach Adam Keefe said he was one of the first players he had wanted to re-sign for his first season in charge, but Higgins had his own plans.

But for those doubting if he's ready to come back, the winger is quick to allay those fears.

"At first I was sure I was done, but then I took some time off and got back skating and realised how much I missed it," admits the now 32-year-old.

"I took some time off to clear my head and I began to get that passion and fire back, so I'm excited for a second chance."

Surprisingly, he's even missed the everyday grind too, adding with a smile: "It's been good to take some bumps in practice!

"Every day I'm feeling better, and I really want to make an impact and help this city get as many championships as we can."

That could start this weekend when the Giants go for the first of four trophies they're still competing for as they take part in the final of the Continental Cup.

The four-team tournament, held at the SSE Arena from today until Sunday, sees the hosts take on Arlan Kokshetau of Kazakhstan, HK Gomel of Belarus and their semi-final opponents GKS Katowice from Poland.

Should they win, becoming the second British side to do so along with the Nottingham Panthers in 2017, then their incredible quadruple hopes would stay alive.

Keefe's side are ranked second behind Arlan, who they will hope to face in a winner-takes-all clash on Sunday evening, but first up are Gomel tonight (7pm face-off).

"I'm excited to play against good competition from across Europe and hopefully we'll win a championship this weekend," says Higgins.

"If we play well and worry about ourselves then the wins will come."

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