Friendship Four tournament to return to Belfast in 2022

It has been announced that the Friendship Four ice hockey tournament will return to Belfast in November 2022.

By Darryl Armitage
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 8:59 am
Vermont Catamounts' Rob Darrar with UMass Minutemen's Dominic Trento during Friendship Four game at the SSE Arena, Belfast in 2016
Vermont Catamounts' Rob Darrar with UMass Minutemen's Dominic Trento during Friendship Four game at the SSE Arena, Belfast in 2016

Taking place at The SSE Arena, Belfast on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November 2022 the high-profile tournament, organised by The Odyssey Trust, will bring four top US college hockey teams together to compete for the coveted Belpot trophy over Thanksgiving weekend.

The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament will see Division One hockey teams, the UMass Lowell River Hawks, winners of the first ever Friendship Four tournament return for 2022, alongside the Quinnipiac Bobcats and Massachusetts Hockey (UMass) who played here in 2016, with Dartmouth Big Green making their debut on Belfast ice.

The Friendship Four was born in Belfast in 2015, marking the start of a highly popular international ice hockey tournament that continues to grow to this day.

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UMass Minutemen's Griff Jeszka celebrates scoring against Vermont Catamounts during a Friendship Four game at the SSE Arena, Belfast in 2016

The tournament was devised and has been developed by The Odyssey Trust, to promote education, social welfare, and community integration in Northern Ireland, building on the sister cities agreement between Belfast and Boston. The tournament last took place in Belfast in 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement that the event will return to Belfast in 2022 was made at Friday night’s game between the UMass Lowell River Hawks and Umass at The Tsongas Centre at UMass Lowell. The event was attended by representatives from The Odyssey Trust, Hockey East, ECAC Hockey and the Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker.

Commenting on the launch of the tournament, Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust said: “After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are pleased to announce that the Friendship Four will return in 2022. It is a great pleasure to be in Boston to make this announcement and I would like to thank ECAC Hockey Commissioner Steve Hagwell and Hockey East Commissioner Steve Metcalf for their continued support in the Friendship Four and everything it stands for.

“The Odyssey Trust is proud to continue this legacy of international collaboration that provides a unique opportunity to use sport to educate young people and create a spirit of mutual understanding and the spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

UMass Minutemen's Niko Hildenbrand scores past St. Lawrence Saints' Kyle Hayton during the Friendship Four 3rd place game at the SSE Arena, Belfast in 2016

The Friendship Four is the first and only NCAA Division one hockey tournament to be held outside of the United States, but its roots are well and truly in Boston, Massachusetts. The Friendship theme is more than a namesake for the tournament.

The event focuses on unifying communities throughout Northern Ireland by bringing a diverse group of young people from across all socio-economic and religious backgrounds together for one event.

It strives to create lasting cultural, sporting and educational partnerships between Northern Ireland and America.

Commenting on the announcement Hockey East Commissioner, Steve Metcalf said: “We’re thrilled to have The Odyssey Trust here in Boston to announce the long-awaited return of the Friendship Four. This tournament has grown to become an important weekend in the collegiate hockey calendar and deliver valuable educational and life experiences for our colleges. We look forward to the event, which will no doubt be a highlight for 2022-23 season.”

UMass Minutemen's Austin Plevy celebrates scoring against St Lawrence Saints during the Friendship Four 3rd place game at the SSE Arena, Belfast in 2016

ECAC Hockey Commissioner Steve Hagwell added: “We’re proud to once again partner with the Odyssey Trust to bring this popular tournament back to Belfast. Thanksgiving weekend 2022 will be one to look forward to for all involved in ECAC Hockey and will build upon a strong legacy of successful tournaments to date.”

Further information and details on the release of Friendship Four tickets will be released will be announced in 2022.