Defenceman Kevin Raine has revealed that this is the most excited he has been to be coming back to Northern Ireland after signing up for a fifth season with the Belfast Giants.
The Dryden, Ontario native has been a long-serving member of the roster, first joining in 2017, and he has had a silverware-laden time with the Giants having won two Elite League titles and three Challenge Cups, as well as leading them into the Champions Hockey League in 2019.
He will get to lead them into Europe this season as well coming off a year where he helped the Giants to the Elite League and Challenge Cup crowns, and Raine admits that re-signing this time around feels different to all the other times he has agreed to come back.
The 29-year-old has been open and honest about his mental health over the last few years, and he revealed that is a big factor in why he is anticipating this season more than any other.
“All the big questions have been had and it all comes back to the fact that I’m getting to do something not a lot of people get to do, so why not keep doing that while I can? I’m right where I want to be and right where I need to be,” he said.
“Given that last year was a career season for me, and I don’t just mean on the ice, I’d say this is the most excited I’ve been to get back to Belfast. This year feels more like a choice.
“It was a choice to come back every time. But in, say, years two or three — before I started taking steps to try and get better — in my attitudes it was more of a ‘what else am I going to do?’ feeling. As excited as I was to join the Giants, it was just as much of a feeling of I was running away from where I was to escape in Belfast.
“This is by far the healthiest mentality I’ve had going in. I have a build mentality now, which I’m really excited about.”
Raine’s points contribution with the Giants has been modest — 11 goals and 64 points in 232 games — but that belies how essential he is to what the Giants do every season given how good he is defensively.
Last season, one of the most promising facets of the Giants’ defence was the pairing of Raine and Sam Ruopp, the duo instantly hitting it off and forming a shut-down pairing.
“I love Ruopper. We have great chemistry. We have a lot of fun together, we support each other, keep each other laughing and keep it light but we also both have an edge,” smiled Raine, who had five goals and 25 points in 63 games last season.
“Playing last season with Ruopper was so much fun, I think we complemented each other very well. I’m looking forward to playing with him again and just seeing him again. I hope we are a pairing again.”