The Stena Line Belfast Giants are pleased to announce the appointment of Derrick Walser as Head Coach on a two year contract as part of an exciting restructure of the organisation’s on-ice management.
Steve Thornton, Head Of Hockey Operations, will oversee the new on-ice management team that he has built that will see Derrick Walser, who will be a Player/Coach, link up with familiar faces to Giants fans, Rob Stewart, Shane Johnson, Brandon Benedict and Adam Keefe.
Walser is a 37 year old defenceman who can boast experience in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets, over 200 games with the DEL’s Eisbären Berlin as well as Spengler Cup success twice with Team Canada. The new Head Coach who hails from Nova Scotia, Canada joins the Giants from Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of Switzerland’s famous ‘A’ league – posting 123 points in 185 games during his previous four years there while being leading scoring defenceman in the 2013/14 & 2014/15 seasons.
Rob Stewart, who will step into the role of Bench Coach, is an ‘original Giant’ whose 12 years of service to the organisation stretches back to the inaugural season in 2000 and includes the retirement of his #16 jersey, over 250 games played, four League titles and two Playoff Championships.
Another ‘original Giant’ to have his jersey retired is Shane Johnson, who returns to the organisation following well over 400 games played and six major championships won. Shane will also take up the role as ‘Project Manager’ for the upcoming NCAA Friendship Four tournament to be held in Belfast.
Brandon Benedict returns to Belfast from the Nottingham Panthers, spending four seasons and winning six major championships in the role as Captain with the Giants Elite League rivals after playing the 2009/10 & 2010/11 seasons in Belfast – during which time he became a firm fans’ favourite through his never-say-die attitude and helped the organisation to the 2010 Playoff Championship. Brandon’s appointment as Player/Assistant Coach also allows the Giants cover in case of injuries to the 2015/16 roster and, like Shane, his role will involve leadership of the NCAA Friendship Four tournament alongside Giants Front Office responsibilities.
Adam Keefe will step up into the role of Player/Assistant Coach in his sixth season with the organisation while also retaining the Captaincy for a fourth straight year. Famous for his no-nonsense style of play and popularity in the locker room & with the fans, Keefe can boast two League titles and over 200 games played for the Giants.
Steve Thornton on his appointment of Derrick Walser and the new on-ice management team:
“I wanted someone who could contribute both on and off the ice. The success he (Walser) has had and the attitude he brought to the table when we were speaking showed me that he is the right guy. He’s a winner who’ll be one of the top d-men in the league and has been one of the top players in every league that he has played in and I expect the guys to follow him.”
“My goal was to surround myself with smart hockey guys that I trust – I want to go to war with these guys. For me, i’m obviously still going to be involved in the hockey side of things – making sure the structure is right & that we’re taking this organisation in the right direction and this announcement is a big step forward in that.”