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Shields' joy as he writes more history with Giants



Top man: Colin Shields will set the new Giants appearance record

Top man: Colin Shields will set the new Giants appearance record

Top man: Colin Shields will set the new Giants appearance record

It's been a long time in coming, but British ice hockey legend Colin Shields will finally break a Belfast Giants record tonight.

The Giants' all-time leading points scorer will also become the team's record appearance holder when he steps onto the ice for the 585th time tonight against their bitter rivals, and his old side, the Sheffield Steelers.

Indeed, he was all set to break Giants legend Graeme Walton's long-standing record three months ago only for a freak injury at home to Milton Keynes which saw him take a stick to the face, resulting in a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

But tonight Shields makes his return to the line-up for the visit of the Steelers, and he's ready to make history.

"It was something I didn't really know about until before the game where I got injured, so I only knew at short notice that I'd tied Graeme!" laughed the 38-year-old, who is in his 11th season with the Giants and has won six titles with the team.

"It's just an honour to play as many games as I have for the Giants, they're such a great organisation, and also to be named in the same breath as Graeme Walton, a local player who played as many years as he did and made such an impact."

But while he's able to laugh now that he's making his return to game action for the Giants, behind the scenes his rather nasty injury was taking its toll.

Initially the thoughts were that it would be a short stay on the sidelines for Shields while the gash healed. But some blurred vision saw his return date pushed back to a few weeks. Then a month, and then two months.

When he makes his return tonight, it will be exactly three months to the day that he picked up the injury on October 5.

And the longer his stay off the ice became, the bigger the doubts grew over whether he'd be back on it.

"It was just slow going, it didn't heal as well as we thought it would," revealed Shields.

"(Retirement) wasn't something that was discussed openly but it was something that was in the back of my mind and I started to ponder it the longer I sat out, especially at my age.

"You have a lot of thoughts going through your head, whether you'll come back during the year or even at all.

"I'm fortunate it wasn't more serious and that I'm back to full health now and back on the ice."

Now that he is back, bringing his excellent scoring touch into the line-up for the second half of the season, he and his team-mates will be gunning for their massive double-header against the Sheffield Steelers.

Tonight (face-off 7pm) will have added spice as it will mark the first return of Jackson Whistle and Ryan Martinelli to the SSE Arena since they switched Giants teal for Steelers orange in the off-season.

While the league standings may suggest this is simply a meeting between second and sixth, the Steelers have vastly improved since the hiring of new head coach Tom Barrasso and will prove tough to beat.

Meanwhile, the Giants are hoping to retake the Elite League lead from the Cardiff Devils, who hold a slender one-point advantage in the standings.

"It doesn't get any bigger than a Sheffield double-header," said Shields, who played 22 times for the Steelers in 2012. "After the split earlier this year, we'll be looking to come out fast in that first game, as I'm sure they'll be.

"They've been in much better form in the second half of the first half (of the season) after they made a few changes, so they'll come in hungry.

"When you play these teams, you want to win these Cardiff, Nottingham, Sheffield series, the guys who are challenging up at the top. We only play six games against them this year so we have to give a good showing in the first game and hopefully have something to take into the second.

"But we're looking forward to it and getting the fans behind us, and we'll be looking to come out strong in that first period."

This weekend also sees the inaugural Friendship Series between the women's teams from American colleges Clarkson and Northeastern.

The two sides face-off at 3pm today and 12pm tomorrow. Entry to both games is free.

Belfast Telegraph