Shields: GB joy can be great for league
Great Britain's all-time leading goalscorer Colin Shields hopes the national team's recent success will lead to more exposure for the Elite League.
The Belfast Giants forward was part of the Great Britain side that won gold in Division 1A of the IIHF World Championships in April, promoting them to the top tier of world ice hockey for next season.
They earned unlikely back-to-back promotions to reach the highest level thanks to a nail-biting last-second win over Hungary in the final game of the group in Budapest.
GB can now look forward to facing some of the top players in the world from the NHL when they take on Canada, the United States and Finland next year - three juggernauts of the sport - as well as Olympic silver medallists Germany, hosts Slovakia, Denmark and France.
And Shields, who scored a goal and registered three points in Great Britain's recent campaign, hopes that will bode well for how the Elite League is viewed across Europe.
"It's one of those things you hope would take British hockey to the next level," the 38-year-old said. "Various things over the past few years have held us back and haven't given us worldwide coverage, and the Elite League has been getting better publicity with social media.
"To see reporters and news outlets in the US and Canada following it and posting about it is great, and Britain should be a great hockey country, it's been here for a long time and we have a lot of great players.
"It's a great opportunity for us to make a mark and do something special, win some games at that level and stay up there."
Already the rewards of Great Britain's success have been evident in some of the recent moves that players have received.
British defenceman Ben O'Connor got a blockbuster move from the Sheffield Steelers to Barys Astana of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), one of the top leagues in Europe, after impressing in Budapest, while several others have netted moves to Sweden and Austria.
"We do play in a good league, which is getting better, and it's good for players to move to other countries and ply their trade over there," Shields remarked.
"It's great for Ben, he had a great tournament and he deserves that opportunity, and hopefully some others will have a great tournament next year and open up some opportunities to move on to better leagues."