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How new Giants signing Jeff Baum fell in love with Belfast as a college boy


Happy return: Jeff Baum joins the Giants having first played in Belfast in 2017

Happy return: Jeff Baum joins the Giants having first played in Belfast in 2017

Happy return: Jeff Baum joins the Giants having first played in Belfast in 2017

While the Friendship Four is primarily a college ice hockey tournament, it has also proven to be something of a scouting opportunity for the Belfast Giants — and this year is no different.

In previous seasons the team have signed players such as Darcy Murphy, Chris Truehl and Liam Morgan, all of whom have previously showcased their talents in Belfast at the tournament, which is staged at the SSE Arena in November, prior to donning a teal jersey.

Now you can add Jeff Baum to that list. The defenceman has become the latest Friendship Four graduate to sign for the Giants, the former Providence College man — who played in the 2017 tournament — agreeing a one-year deal on Adam Keefe’s roster for the upcoming season.

And, similarly to all those who have come before him, Belfast left a lasting impression on the Texas native four years ago, which led to him putting pen to paper on his first professional deal in the Elite League.

“I’ve always had Belfast in my mind since I played there in freshman year. It’s a great city, great organisation, great coaching staff, great fans. It’s something I’m excited to be a part of, be a part of a winning program again and keep pushing forward to bigger and better things,” says 25-year-old Baum, who joins from American International College (AIC).

“Belfast was the first and foremost team I was talking to. They were the first team I reached out to and they were the first team that reached out to me. Once Belfast came into the picture, that was where I wanted to go.

“It was a long process because there was a lot of things that go into it, but once everything started to pick up it was pretty much Belfast the whole way.”

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While the Giants may not call on him to chip in much offensively from the blue-line, as his stats suggest, Baum projects to be a rock solid option on defence, where his ability to pick the right play and use his hockey IQ to his advantage make him a tough opponent to get past.

What surely also made him an attractive prospect for head coach Keefe was his winning pedigree, with the left-shot defenceman having won the NCAA’s AHA regular season title in all three of his years with AIC, along with two AHA championships in 2019 and 2021.

That’s something Baum wants to bring to the SSE Arena too, and he’s eager to continue his winning momentum in his first season as a pro.

“It takes a lot of effort to win and it takes everybody pulling in the same direction. Hopefully I can keep moving forward and bring some of that into Belfast,” says the former Dallas Stars training camp invitee.

“I’ll make sure I’ll work hard this summer to show up to camp in the best shape I can, bring as much energy as I can so we can have high effort practices. For me, it’s about bringing as much energy as I can, being as prepared as possible and trying to stay as consistent as possible.

“It’s a big jump, going from college to pro hockey. It’s a different style of game, similar to making the move from North America to Europe with a bigger sheet of ice. So there’s things for me to adjust to, but one of the things I’m looking forward to is pushing myself in that regard and get ready for the next step, push my limits and see what I’m capable of.”

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