The Belfast Giants are set to return to the ice for the first time in two weeks on Boxing Day after getting the green light from the NI Executive to continue playing with crowds in attendance.
The Giants have been in the Elite League’s Covid-19 protocol after returning several positive tests in the middle of last week, which forced the postponement of last weekend’s double-header against the Sheffield Steelers and their fixture against the Guildford Flames, which was due to be played last night.
There were also fears that potential restrictions on the number of spectators inside the SSE Arena could lead to further postponements post-Christmas, given how essential match day revenue is to the club. However, the Executive’s decision not to limit crowds at sporting events means the Giants can play in front of a capacity crowd against the Glasgow Clan on Sunday.
With the team set to be released from the Covid protocol by Christmas, the Giants are preparing to play for the first time since their win over the Nottingham Panthers on December 12.
Head of hockey ops Steve Thornton revealed: “Players were back on the ice today preparing for Sunday and we are doing all we can to make Boxing Day a great game on and off the ice.
“The safety of our players, staff and fans remains our No.1 priority. We anticipate that the team will be formally released from the league’s Covid protocol in the coming days. In addition to our robust entry requirements, we are working with the league to ensure all possible precautions are taken.”
Fans attending Sunday’s game will still be required to follow all Covid-19 guidance that was in place for previous home matches, such as producing evidence of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test prior to entry to the SSE Arena, as well as wearing masks inside the building.
Meanwhile, the status of Monday’s return fixture against the Clan at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow is still up in the air with the Scottish side assessing what steps to take after their own crowd was limited to just 200 by the Scottish government.
Elsewhere, 15-year-old Northern Irish defencewoman Ellie Patrick has been called up to the GB Under-18 Women’s squad for next month’s Division II World Championships in Istanbul.