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Ice Hockey: Belfast Giants win fight to land Kuiper

Doug Christiansen last night won a three-month long battle to sign a defenceman who had his pick of clubs in the Elite League.

And after beating his rivals to the signature of 29-year-old Nick Kuiper, the Belfast Giants coach is now drawing up plans to complete his roster with the intention of getting the better of the rest of the league on the ice when the new season starts in September.

It is understood that the Giants landed Kuiper after he received a concrete offer from at least one other team in the league, while others had talked to him.

“We had targeted Nick from day one of the off-season,” revealed Christiansen, who was in Scotland at the start of the week to receive his Masters degree at the University of Edinburgh before heading off to mainland Europe on holiday.

“He is an elite defender who plays physical and can shut down the best players from opposing teams.

“We were not the only Elite League team who were after him, but we got our man.

“He will provide leadership and stability to our defence.”

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Given his playing credentials it is no surprise that Kuiper was a hot property — having been signed by NHL club the Chicago Blackhawks seven years ago, although he never played in ‘The Show.’

The 6ft 2in defenceman from Quebec previously played in Finland, Sweden and for the last two seasons with Graz 99ers in Austria — and he will now add Northern Ireland to his list of European destinations.

The number of players on the Giants roster for the 2011-12 season has now reached double figures.

Only six of those players are Great Britain or Ireland qualified, which means Christiansen is under pressure as he works to the Elite League’s 10-man import limit, which has dropped by one from last season.

Kuiper is the third new face, with defenceman Tom Dignard and forward Jon Pelle already signed.

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