George Awada is no stranger to the city of Belfast, or in fact, a leadership role within the Giants' player roster. Having played for the team for seven seasons in total between 2004 and 2012, the retired forward spent five seasons as captain for the men in teal and, overall, spent the most part of his professional hockey career icing with the Giants.
Since retiring from pro hockey, Awada has been furthering his hockey career as a coach and mentor, having gained a wealth of experience across the Atlantic in the US, where he has been the head coach of his former high school, the Two Rivers Warriors. In addition, Awada has been training ice hockey players of all ages with the likes of CCM High Performance League in Minnesota, the Minnesota Advancement Programme, and Four Star Hockey, where he played a key role in the recruitment, scouting and advancement of some of the nation's top players from Minnesota.
This season, Awada will join head coach Adam Keefe as an assistant coach alongside Rob Stewart, following the loss of Jeff Mason - who recently departed to take up the role of head coach across the water with Scottish ElHL side, the Dundee Stars.
Speaking of the appointment, Belfast Giants' head coach Adam Keefe said: “I'm really looking forward to having George on board with the coaching staff this season. He knows the organisation, he knows what it takes to be a Belfast Giant, and his experience working with youth and pro hockey players in recent years will benefit the development of our group.
"I played with George for the Giants in the 2011/12 season, where we won a trophy together. I look forward to working with him once again.”
Commenting on his return to Belfast, and his assistant coaching role with the Giants, Awada said: "I'm very excited to be back with the Giants after all these years. This organisation has continued to grow from strength to strength, and so has the support from the best fans in the league, the Teal Army. I look forward to working with Keefer and Stew and the rest of the team.
"I've been coaching and training players in the States since I retired from the Belfast Giants and can’t wait to continue that and get going with this group.
"I'd like to thank Steve Thornton and The Odyssey Trust for this opportunity, and most of all to my wife and kids for their support in all my hockey endeavours. I admire what Adam has been able to do over his tenure as head coach and was fortunate to win some silverware with him in my final season - I look forward to winning a few more with him.”
George Awada is due to make his behind-the-bench debut next weekend. Meanwhile, the Giants prepare to return to home ice for their second CHL clash of the season vs HC Davos on Sunday 4 September. Tickets for Belfast Giants home games are available via Ticketmaster.ie, here.