Belfast Telegraph

Legend Colin Shields hails team display after ending career on high

Colin Shields during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Kosice, Slovakia (Lukasz Laskowski/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)
Colin Shields during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Kosice, Slovakia (Lukasz Laskowski/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Belfast Giants and British ice hockey legend Colin Shields insisted that GB's stunning 4-3 overtime win over France was about the team and not about him.

Shields, 39, signed off on a glittering career with his final game in Kosice, Slovakia, as Great Britain secured their place in next year's IIHF World Championships in dramatic fashion.

The tournament underdogs, expected to lose every game at the IIHF World Championships, pulled off a stunning comeback that keeps them in international ice hockey's top tier next season.

Trailing 3-0 midway through the second period, GB rallied to take the game to overtime, where Ben Davies' goal booked their place in Switzerland next May.

It was the perfect swansong for Shields who, after a phenomenal 24-year career, hung up the skates following the amazing events of Monday night.

The legendary winger retires as GB's all-time leading goalscorer, while he holds the same accolade for the Giants as well as being their most capped player, for whom he has played for 11 seasons.

However, despite being the centre of attention after the game at the Steel Arena, Shields refused to focus on himself, instead insisting that today is all about the entire roster.

"It wasn't about me, it was about the team," argued the Scotsman.

"We've battled with a lot of things over the last five, six years, and I've played with a lot of those guys for 10, 15, some of those guys for almost 20 years coming through the junior and then the senior programmes.

"It was a combination of a lot of things, I'm really proud of the guys, the way they battled. We were down 3-0 and we never gave up and now it's really exciting for them to have another chance to come back next year and play against those top teams again.

"Hopefully it opens up a lot of eyes to the UK hockey scene and it gets a lot more investment and time put into coaching for junior development, and you never know.

"It's a big step for UK hockey, I'm proud that I was a part of it and proud of the guys for battling so hard."

Up to that point it had been a tough tournament for GB, who found themselves out-matched and out-played by the NHL superstars of the elite sides like Canada, the USA and Finland.

A crushing defeat to Denmark, a game in which they thought they might get something from, knocked their confidence and left them in a winner-takes-all tie with France.

But, as they have done in the past, Pete Russell's side came up big when their backs were against the wall and now they can look forward to another year at the top level.

Not only that, but the result will certainly have made plenty across the world sit up and take notice, with the Elite League getting plenty of admiration off the back of it.

"It's not been an easy trip, let's not beat around the bush, we got spanked by some pretty good teams, and as fun as it was to play against those top players, it's not fun to lose 7-0, 8-0, whatever the scores were," added Shields.

"It was tough on the boys but they stuck together. We spent a long time away from family and friends, a lot of the guys have kids now, and we're not used to being away for so long, but we really stuck with it tonight.

"To come back from that 3-0 deficit was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to watching the guys next year from a less stressful point of view!"

So what now for the 39-year-old? Now that his career has been put aside, will he still be involved in the game or will he take some well-earned time away from the sport?

The Glasgow native does have a gym back in Belfast, which will undoubtedly take up plenty of his time, but there will be no shortage of suitors looking for his assistance, potentially even beyond the UK.

"Not sure what's going on yet, I have my own business in Belfast, I own a gym, so I'll focus on that for a while and then family life, and then we'll see what opportunities come up. As far as that goes, I can't really say right now," he says.

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