New skipper Blair Riley will lift Giants to new heights: Keefe
Adam Keefe has hailed the leadership qualities of new Belfast Giants captain Blair Riley as he prepares to lead the team into competitive action on home ice for the first time.
After calling time on his playing career in the summer when he was appointed as head coach, Keefe needed to find a replacement for himself.
Keefe resisted the temptation to go for a captain in his own image, deciding not to go for a tough guy to wear the 'C' on his chest.
Instead he went for a goal-getter and Keefe believes that what Riley brings to the position is perfect for the team as they seek to end a three-season trophy famine.
Popular with fans and his team-mates in his first season with the Giants, the 31-year-old forward, who hit 28 goals in 52 games, was one of the first players Keefe re-signed when assembling his first Belfast Giants roster and after missing last weekend's Challenge Cup defeat to the Dundee Stars he will return in tonight's opening Elite League clash with the Guildford Flames at the SSE Arena.
"Blair has come in and earned the respect of his peers through various things," said Keefe.
"It's not only his on-ice capabilities that got him the Most Valuable Player and Players' Player of the Year awards last season.
"He has a great work ethic and goes about things in the right way on and off the ice. He brings a leadership and when he speaks guys look up to him.
"We have a good dressing room anyway, but you want a captain that will enhance that."
Keefe has been tasked with leading the Giants assault on a first league title since 2014.
Even at this early stage, Keefe believes that he is more prepared himself for the league opener.
"Being coach is a very different role," said Keefe. "I have to get used to making decisions and be prepared for situations. I'll be better prepared than I was the first weekend."