New Belfast Giants centre Slater Doggett says he is hoping to find a long-term home in the Northern Ireland capital after signing with the club for 2021-22.
The 27-year-old Ontario native has joined the Giants from Slovakia’s HC Nove Zamky and is slated to play a major role this season given his goalscoring prowess.
Doggett is only one year removed from a 42-goal season with Italian side Sterzing/Vipiteno, while he had a stellar college career with Queen’s University in Canada, netting 68 goals in 128 games.
Now he’s aiming to bring that scoring touch to the Giants and, while he admits he would love to test himself in a top European league, he’s equally keen for his stay in Belfast to prove long-term.
“I’m in two different head spaces. I’d love to get a move up to a top European league and test myself there, but I’ve also been looking for somewhere to call home,” said Doggett.
“I would definitely love for one of two things to happen — either it’s a really good fit in Belfast and I could play here for years to come or I could light it up and find myself in a top league in Europe in the future.
“Either one of those two options would be fine by me.”
Had last year’s Elite League not have been cancelled due to Covid-19, Giants fans could have been acquainted with the centre a lot sooner as Doggett revealed he was given the sales pitch by head coach Adam Keefe ahead of the doomed 2020-21 season.
"Adam got in touch with me in the recruitment phase of the season that never ended up happening and he sent me a couple videos, talked about the league and the town and some of the players that had passed through in the last few years. Honestly, I was hooked from then," explains Doggett.
"Unfortunately, Covid meant the season didn't happen, so I ended up playing in Slovakia. I really enjoyed my time in Slovakia, but I remember thinking a couple weeks in that I liked it there but I didn't plan on staying.
"All I wanted to do was get back and find that Belfast were still interested, and luckily that was the case."
Doggett also got a glowing reference of what Belfast is like both as a place to live and play hockey from another familiar face to Giants fans - former forward Dustin Whitecotton, who was the centre's coach during his year in Italy.
Whitecotton played just one season in Belfast, winning the league title in 2014 and finishing as the team's second-highest points scorer, and while his testimony was only positive and very welcome, Doggett laughs when he says it wasn't exactly needed.
"He was saying playing in the Giants was one of the best years he had playing pro hockey, so he talked it up pretty big," adds Doggett, who also revealed both the Dundee Stars and Glasgow Clan had approached him when he turned professional in 2019.
"I'd reached out to Dustin because I knew he played with Keefer and when we talked over the summer he said he didn't feel he needed to make a big pitch to me because Keefer had already sold it so well to me, and he was right!"
While he has garnered plenty of individual accolades in his still relatively young career, the centre has, frustratingly, not claimed a team championship yet, although he does admit he's still on the fence about whether or not he is able to count lifting a conference title with Queen's as a championship.
Removing any doubt is something he hopes will change at the end of the season with the Giants, and Doggett concedes Belfast's strong record at consistently challenging for silverware was also a big selling point for him to make the move to the SSE Arena.
"I know the Giants are always up around the top of the standings and win quite a bit, so that was huge too. I just want to be somewhere I enjoy living and can win the title," he says.
"Honestly, winning a championship is more important than the living situation, so I think I'm getting the best of both worlds. Winning a championship is the number one goal. Winning's all I want, to be honest, and that's a huge reason I moved to Belfast."