The Friendship Series is the first and only NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey tournament to be held outside of the United States. The event is an extension of the Friendship Four tournament, which was devised by The Odyssey Trust in 2015, and has been developed year on year to promote education, social welfare, and community integration in Northern Ireland, building on the sister cities agreement between Belfast and Boston.
Robert Fitzpatrick, chief executive officer of The Odyssey Trust, said: “As the first and only NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey tournament to be held outside of the United States - we are pleased to announce that the Friendship Series will return once again to Belfast in January 2024, for what will be an elite sporting event, featuring two women’s sides Princeton and Providence.
“The Odyssey Trust is proud to bring women’s ice hockey to Northern Ireland, and to continue the legacy of international collaboration through sport and friendship - bridging cultural, sporting and educational partnerships between Northern Ireland and America.”
The weekend will mark the third iteration of the women’s college hockey event, following clashes between Clarkson and Northeastern in 2018/19 and Merrimack and Quinnipiac in 2019/20.
Steve Hagwell, commissioner of ECAC Hockey, said: “We are very excited to once again have ECAC Hockey participate in the Friendship Series with Princeton women’s program facing providence in Belfast in January 2024. All previous events hosted by our friends in Belfast have been first-class, and have provided lifetime memories for student-athletes, coaches, staff, and fans. We are certain the 2024 Friendship Series will be the same – a tremendously memorable event for everyone involved.”
The Friendship Four tournament and Friendship Series grew out of a relationship that started when the Boston Bruins played an exhibition contest against the Belfast Giants in 2010, before going on to win the Stanley Cup that same year.
Belfast and Boston signed a ‘Sister Cities’ agreement in 2014, designed to foster stronger economic development, trade and investment, tourism, youth, cultural, faith-based exchanges, and educational linkages between the two cities, and to increase awareness of both cities as being growth hubs in the connected health, life sciences, creative industries, tourism, financial services, and knowledge economy sectors.
Steve Metcalf, commissioner of The Hockey East Association, said: “Hockey East remains committed to providing memorable experiences for our student-athletes, and we are excited for two new women’s teams to return to Belfast for another Friendship Series.
“We’re appreciative of the opportunity the great people of Belfast are providing and look forward to continuing the Series in the future.”
Key focuses of the Friendship Series are education and social inclusion; exploring the opportunities that education can provide, both in Northern Ireland and the United States, through scholarships and placements - ensuring that young people from all backgrounds are provided with opportunities to identify relevant areas of study and future potential career paths.
Matt Kelly, head coach of Providence Women’s Ice Hockey, said: “First and foremost, I want to thank the Belfast Giants, The Odyssey Trust, The Hockey East Association, and ECAC Hockey for reigniting this experience for NCAA women’s ice hockey.
“I’ve heard nothing but great stories and memories from teams that have been over to Belfast in the past, and I look forward to creating memories of our own that will last a lifetime.”
Cara Morey, head coach of Princeton Women’s Ice Hockey, said: “We are so excited to travel to Belfast and showcase our game to international fans. This is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity that most college hockey players never get to experience.
“At Princeton, we believe in ‘Education Through Athletics’, and we are excited to learn the unique history and customs from the people of Belfast. We are also excited to play top level college hockey as we take on Providence. This is going to be a highlight for many players as they create memories that last a lifetime. We’re grateful for the ECAC and Princeton University for helping facilitate this amazing experience.”
Complimentary tickets will be available for collection ahead of the tournament for Belfast Giants' season ticket holders. If you are not a Belfast Giants' season ticket holder, entry to the event(s) will be facilitated on a walk-up, first-come first-served basis, and subject to availability.
More information will be announced soon.