Belfast Telegraph

Paul Swindlehurst reveals origins of the Belfast Giants' new pre-game ritual

Belfast Giants defenceman Paul Swindlehurst (William Cherry/Presseye)
Belfast Giants defenceman Paul Swindlehurst (William Cherry/Presseye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Among the many eye-catching moments on the Belfast Giants' European road trip last week, one of the most interesting was Patryk Wronka and Paul Swindlehurst's interesting pre-game ritual.

First spotted in the Giants' "Sights and Sounds" feature on YouTube from their game against Bili Tygri Liberec, the pair were spotted bumping their gloves together before pretending to take a drink out of them.

You can see the moment they do it at 1:02 of the video below, which is worth watching in its entirety.

Now Swindlehurst has lifted the lid on the thought process behind their pre-game ritual, which all came from the Polish winger.

"That's all him. He showed me it and it kind of stuck. That pre-game ritual, the touch gloves and then pretend to drink, came from him," laughed Swindlehurst.

"It gets a few laughs in the locker room and lightens the mood before getting out there. It's a bit of fun and a bit of a ritual that stuck."

According to Swindlehurst, it had been introduced by Wronka prior to the first pre-season exhibition game against Mora IK. It's not superstitious in any way, just something they do to alleviate any pre-game tension.

"He just kind of pointed at me and said 'you do this', then pretended to drink!" added British defenceman Swindlehurst of the first time they did it.

"I think it's me and him because it's usually me and him first out of the locker room, so I was the first person he saw and he decided to do it. It's a bit of enjoyment, loosens the mood before getting out there."

Wronka confirmed that it was something he did with a team-mate in Katowice before games and now he's introduced it with the Giants, and so far it's gone down well with his new team-mates.

"I'm happy to do it if it makes him play better!" grinned Swindlehurst.

It's just a small example of how this changed Giants roster has bonded so early in the season, something which is always a concern whenever you are forced to introduce 13 new faces to the line-up.

However, head coach Adam Keefe and head of hockey operations Steve Thornton appear to have struck a good balance between both talent and personalities within the locker room.

Players have enthused about the different characters they have among the roster, a key component to a successful team, which were brought to the fore on their recent European road trip in the Champions League (CHL).

Now the roster return to domestic matters with the first game of their Challenge Cup defence against the Glasgow Clan on Saturday at the SSE Arena (face-off 7pm), with a trip to the Manchester Storm on Sunday (5.30pm) kicking off their Elite League title defence.

"All the guys have bonded great. The trip away with the CHL, that brought guys closer," continued Swindlehurst, now in his second season with the team.

"Keefer's brought together a great group of guys. We're working hard and we can't wait to get the season underway."

 

Roster notes

Head coach Adam Keefe won't have to decide on his first healthy scratch just yet with the news that defenceman Jesse Forsberg won't be fit to dress for either of this week's games.

The Canadian blue-liner was back on the ice at practice this morning wearing a yellow non-contact jersey, however won't be ready to return to the roster for the visit of the Clan.

Forsberg, 26, has sat out the last three games with an upper body injury sustained following a hit from Michal Bulir in their opening Champions League game against Bili Tygri Liberec.

The coach will have a decision to make, however, over whether he runs with five defencemen and 12 forwards, or with six defenceman and 11 forwards instead.

It appears he is leaning towards the former, with swingman Mark Garside takings reps as a centre during practice drills, however the GB international is capable of flipping between both roles.

Captain Matt Pelech is free to return to the line-up after missing the Augsburger Panther defeat due to suspension, but winger Liam Reddox is a doubt after also wearing a yellow non-contact jersey in Thursday's practice.

"Everyone's day-to-day until they're not," said Keefe of Reddox, who will be evaluated today on his availability for the weekend. "I thought (Forsberg and Reddox) both looked good in practice."

Netminder Shane Owen will make the start against Glasgow on Saturday, with the backstop saying he's good to go despite facing 40 shots in the game against Augsburger last Sunday.

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