Belfast Telegraph

"I'm really excited to get on the ice for Belfast": new man Palmberg eager to make instant impact for Giants

New Belfast Giants forward Rickard Palmberg
New Belfast Giants forward Rickard Palmberg
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Forward David Goodwin points at Rickard Palmberg as he's coming off the ice at the SSE Arena and cracks a wide grin.

"He's the new guy now!" laughs Goodwin.

Palmberg returns the smile and aims a fake swipe at his fellow mid-season Belfast Giants arrival as he walks by.

"They're taking care of me and they're pretty happy about it!" he says of Goodwin and defenceman Ryan Lowney, who had stayed behind on the ice with the Giants' newest arrival to help him acclimatise to the new ice.

"They've been the new guys for a while but now that's on to me. I get to be the new guy!"

It's true. The mantle of being the newest man in the door has shifted over the last few weeks, first from Lowney to Goodwin and now from the winger to the Giants' latest signing, Rickard Palmberg.

It's the end of Tuesday morning's practice and it was a first chance for Palmberg to skate with his new Giants team-mates after joining the side earlier this week, and he's both been suitably impressed and been impressing himself already.

A quick and agile skater, Palmberg won't crash the net so much as weave his way towards it before flashing the puck by the goaltender before he's even had a chance to blink. That's what the Giants have signed him for.

After all, it's his creativity that jumps off the stats sheet, as 22 assists in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Timrå IK last season attests to, and it's that which head coach Adam Keefe hopes will come to the fore in Belfast.

"Once Rickard became available we wanted to bring him to Belfast quickly," claimed the Canadian. "He will add creativity to our offense."

On first glance, it seems like that will be the case. In his first practice, Palmberg was thrown straight into the action, taking slightly limited reps due to it being his first involvement with the team, but clearly operating as if he hadn't been out of action since the end of October.

If the Giants have got him at even half of what he can offer, they'd take that in a heartbeat. Hailing from Lindigö in Sweden - an island just north-east of Stockholm - Palmberg is just one season removed from that remarkable nine-goal, 31-point season in the SHL, making him an elite points producer in one of the world's top hockey leagues.

His numbers may have taken a sharp decline having moved to Berani Zlin in the Czech Republic to start the season, putting up just one goal and two points in 11 contests, but that was an ill-fated move that never really clicked into gear.

"It was a good league with many good players and we had a tough start. I think we lost six or seven of our first few games and they fired the coach," explains Palmberg.

"It wasn't the best fit for me there, and whenever I got the opportunity to come (to Belfast) I jumped on it right away."

ckard Palmberg #3.jpg
New Belfast Giants forward Rickard Palmberg

Now that he's in Belfast, if that production from his SHL days translates to the Elite League then it's not a stretch to imagine Palmberg being an instant hit in a Giants roster that is crying out for consistent offensive output.

As well as that, the chance to exorcise some of the demons of the early part of the season is an enticing prospect, and, having done his homework, the 30-year-old Swede is confident that he's in the right place to do just that.

Friends were contacted to judge whether the fit was right and, ironically, it was a pair of Guildford Flames and a former Dundee Star who were key to ensuring Palmberg would continue his hockey career at the SSE Arena.

"It's been really good. I haven't been here long but everyone has been really nice to me and I've heard great things about the city. The guys have really welcomed me so so far, so good," adds the former Timrå ace.

"I spoke to a couple of friends who play in the league, Calle Ackered and Erik Lindhagen in Guildford and Pontus Sjögren, who was with Dundee last year, and they told me that it's probably the best place to play in the league.

"The city is great, I've heard the fans are really good and they get a lot of people to the games. The hockey here has really been good this last year, I've seen lots of good players coming to the league so I'm stoked to be here."

He also has a somewhat familiar face now alongside him too, although he only ever faced Liam Reddox as an opponent while in Sweden, with the pair clashing on a couple of occasions when Timrå came up against Reddox's Växjö Lakers.

"It was always really tough, he played a lot of years in Sweden and was captain of Växjö for a long time, and they're a great team. I have a lot of respect for him," praises Palmberg.

ckard Palmberg #2.jpg
New Belfast Giants forward Rickard Palmberg

His bedding in period in Belfast has consisted of arriving on Monday evening, attending the team's Christmas dinner to introduce himself to his team-mates, one practice on Tuesday morning followed by a flight to Birmingham on Tuesday night ahead of Wednesday's Challenge Cup quarter-final second leg against the Cardiff Devils.

Not ideal but, then again, it's maybe a blessing in disguise for Palmberg that he doesn't have a lengthy wait for his debut in a Giants jersey and instead gets to immediately take to the ice for his new team.

No tougher game to do it in either. The Devils hold a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg in Belfast last week, meaning only a regulation win over their bitter rivals in their own barn will do for Belfast if they want to carry their title defence into the last-four.

That's what Palmberg is counting on, however. He hasn't joined the Giants to coast to the end of the season, he wants to be part of games that matter.

"I was a bit rusty today! But it was pretty good actually. The legs are a bit tired now but I should be okay for (Wednesday)," he smiles after Tuesday's practice.

"It's good to get straight into it and not think too much about it. Go out there, play my game. I've heard Cardiff are a good team so I'm expecting a tight game.

"I'm really excited to get on the ice for Belfast."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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