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I couldn’t turn down chance to be a No 1, says Jeff Mason as he leaves Belfast for Dundee


Jeff Mason will take over as head coach at Dundee Stars in the new season

Jeff Mason will take over as head coach at Dundee Stars in the new season

Jeff Mason will take over as head coach at Dundee Stars in the new season

After 10 years, 400 appearances and five trophies with the Belfast Giants, Jeff Mason has made the decision to spread his wings and fly on his own.

He leaves with nothing left to owe the organisation. The Massachusetts native won two Elite League titles and a Challenge Cup as a player, then assisted head coach Adam Keefe on the bench after retiring, helping them win another league and Cup this season. Besides an elusive Play-Off trophy, there was little else for him to achieve in Belfast.

That undoubtedly played a significant factor in his decision to go it on his own, as were his aspirations to be more than just Keefe’s No.2 his whole career. Widely tipped as the head coach’s successor when he eventually moved on, the lure of a full-time role of his own was too tempting.

So when the Dundee Stars came calling a few weeks ago to ask if he would succeed Omar Pacha as head coach and general manager next season, the chance to make his mark on a team of his own meant Mason’s answer was a quick one.

It was a decision he claims he had to make for his career. But it was also one that leaves him heartbroken at the same time.

“It was not easy to leave the Giants, people I spent many years with and have great memories with. But becoming a head coach is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he explained.

“The opportunity was now. I think I’m ready for the challenge. Not an easy decision to make but the opportunity in Dundee is a really good one and there’s a lot of things to build on. It was the right opportunity at the right time.

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“I’m leaving Belfast with incredible memories and the utmost respect for everyone throughout the organisation. For that I will always be very grateful.”

Mason will spend most of the summer in Belfast as he sorts out the logistics of his move over to Dundee permanently in August. He admits he won’t miss the ferries back and forth to Scotland with the Giants - although he laughs he’ll have a few more six to eight-hour bus rides in exchange - but there’s also an excitement there at the chance to show his own capabilities as a head coach.

That’s not to say Mason hasn’t learned plenty from his good friend and mentor - “I couldn’t ask for a better person to learn from,” he insists - but the opportunity to prove he can make it as a No.1 thrills him.

“I’d love to build off the foundations of what (Pacha) started and my intention is to combine that with what I learned in Belfast and put my own touch on it, so getting the best of both worlds,” he adds.

“Knowing the type of game I want to play will impact the players I try to recruit in Dundee. It’s a lot more responsibility and a bigger challenge, but it’s one I relish and I’m eager to jump in with both feet and hopefully have success.”

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