The Belfast Giants have named a familiar and popular personality as their new Head of Hockey Operations.
Steve Thornton will take charge of the defending Elite League champions, a return to the Odyssey Arena for the former player and coach in a new expansive role.
“This is more than just a coaching job and Steve gets that. He obviously played a huge part in the on ice performance when he was here before but he was instrumental in a lot of the off-ice changes that led to our success. He helped set up the scholarship programme we had with the University of Ulster and he changed the fundamental way we recruited our teams. I am really looking forward to having him back with the Giants,” explained General Manager Todd Kelman.
“This is not a one year contract to coach a hockey team. Steve is moving his family and his whole life here to take up a permanent role within our organisation. His role encompasses overseeing the hockey side of our business and the coaching of the team, but he will also be tasked with building links and developing our junior ice hockey in Northern Ireland.”
Thornton originally came to Belfast for the second half of the 2002-03 season as a player and the final piece of the puzzle for a team that eventually went on to win the first Playoff Title in franchise history.
He was originally hired by Kelman in the spring of 2008 to take over from the departing Ed Courtenay and left after two highly successful seasons to pursue a career outside of ice hockey.
During his time in Belfast he won both the British Knock Out Cup and the Challenge Cup in 2009 then followed up with a Playoff Championship the following season in 2010 before leaving to pursue a career outside of hockey.
“I loved my time in Belfast and so did my family. Working for the Belfast Giants is very special, unlike any other hockey team. I have missed this place and this team since the day I left. I am very excited to be back and I plan on being here for a long time.”
Many of the title winning team from last season have already put pen to paper with the latest two to be announced – Colin Shields and Defenceman of the Year, Calvin Elfring.
Elfring came to Belfast last season after 7 years in the top German League with the Straubing Tigers. He scored 13 goals and added 37 assists for 50 points in his first year as a Giant.
“It was a no-brainer for us to sign back Calvin for another year. Todd and I have been consulting on players for the last couple of weeks, and both of us had Elfring as a ‘must sign’ on our list. He does it all – he can lead the rush, he is strong in his own end, he skates well and he is great on the powerplay. I am pleased to have him back for next season,” added Thornton.
“We are currently talking to a handful of guys from last season’s team still and should be able to confirm more signings very soon. As for new players to Belfast, I am not going to rush into anything. We have nearly all our Brits signed up right now and the core of our team back already. We are only going to need to add 3 to 5 new faces to an already solid team and we will make sure each of those guys fit into our plans.”