The Belfast Giants are a perennial contender in Great Britain’s Elite Ice Hockey League. The team came into existence for the 2000-01 British Ice Hockey Super League (BISL) and played in that league until 2002-03. The BISL was reborn as the EIHL for the 2003-04 season and Belfast has been a strong team each year since.
The Giants were playoff champions in 2002-03 and 2009-10. The team plays their home games at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, a new venue built in 2001. This past season, 2012-13, the Giants finished second overall during the regular season and lost in the playoff final to the Nottingham Panthers.
The Giants were home to NHL great Theo Fleury for the 2005-06 season, his final in pro hockey. After playing over 1,000 NHL regular season games and totalling over 1,000 points, Fleury led the EIHL with 74 points in 34 games. He also spent considerable time in penalty box, sitting out 270 minutes. However, Fleury is not one of the four former Giants to have their jersey numbers retired by the club.
4 – Shane Johnson
Like all four who have their numbers retired in Belfast, Shane Johnson was born in Canada. A native of Brandon, Manitoba, Johnson went to the United States to further both his hockey career and his education. He played four years in the NCAA with Boston University from 1993-94 to 1996-97. He returned to Canada for the 1997-98 season to play 54 games for the national team.
Shane played in Great Britain from 1998-99 to 2009-10. He was a member of the Giants from 2000-01 to 2005-06 then again from 2007-08 to 2009-10. After obtaining his British citizenship, Johnson won a bronze medal with the Great Britain national team at the 2009 Division 1 World Championships.
11 – Colin Ward
Ward was born in Edmonton, Alberta and also took the U.S. college route in his hockey career. He played in the NCAA for Western Michigan University from 1990-91 to 1993-94. He played in the BISL / EIHL from 1997-98 to 2003-04, with the Belfast Giants for the final four of those years. As with Shane Johnson, Colin Ward obtained his British citizenship and played for the national team at the 2004 Division 1 World Championships.
Colin’s brother, Dixon Ward, played at a slightly more advanced level during his professional hockey career. Dixon played 537 regular season games over his career with the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
16 – Rob Stewart
A native of Selkirk, Manitoba, Rob Stewart played elite hockey in Great Britain from 1990-91 to 2007-08. He played for Belfast from 2000-01 to 2005-06 with one additional game in 2010-11. Stewart has been the assistant coach of the Giants since 2009-10 and will be back for the 2013-14 season. Rob was also assistant coach for Ireland at the Division 3 World Championships in 2012 and 2013.
27 – Paxton Schulte
Another native of the province of Alberta, Paxton Schulte was born in Onaway. Paxton played his junior hockey in the Western Hockey League with the Spokane Chiefs in 1991-92 and 1992-93. He was a sixth round pick of the Quebec Nordiques at the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, 124th overall. His NHL experience amounted to two games, one with the Nordiques in 1993-94 and one with the Calgary Flames in 1996-97.
Schulte played in the BISL/EIHL from 1998-99 to 2003-04 and with the Giants from 2000-01 to 2003-04. He was team captain in 2001-02 and 2003-04. In his final season, he led the EIHL with 352 penalty minutes over 54 games.