Sato, who arrives in Belfast from Finnish side KeuPa HT, has previously played for teams in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia, including Harrington College, CIHA Voyageurs, North Iowa Bulls, Scranton Knights, Northeast General, Bentley University, JoKP, and the University of New Hampshire – the team for which Sato played for during the 2019 Friendship Four in Belfast.
Renowned for his speed, Sato became the first player from Japan to play in a National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division 1 game in his first year with the University of New Hampshire, during the 2017/18 season. Between 2017 and 2022, Sato played a total of 135 NCAA Division 1 games, picking up the University of New Hampshire’s ‘Most Improved Player’ award in the 2019/20 season.
Commenting on joining the Belfast Giants, Kohei Sato said: “I’m eager to get going in Belfast – my first experience of playing hockey in the UK full-time. It goes without saying but the Giants have such a fantastic history, full of success and incredible moments, and I hope that I can help create many more for the fans. This is an exciting new challenge for me, and I can’t wait to join up with the rest of the team and coaching staff ahead of what will no doubt be a competitive season to come.”
Sato has represented Japan – both at U20 and senior level – on more than 20 occasions, including at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Estonia and in the pre-Olympic qualification round three tournament in Jesenice, Slovenia.
Steve Thornton, head of hockey operations at the Belfast Giants, said: “We’re incredibly pleased that Kohei has agreed to join the Giants’ roster for the 2023/24 season. We first saw Kohei in Belfast during the 2019 Friendship Four with the University of New Hampshire, and have monitored his progress since.
“Kohei is an exceptional skater, who’s elite speed will no doubt change the momentum of a game in our league. He plays the game at a similar pace to current Giant Matt McLeod and former forward Jordan Boucher, who have both had success on the big ice in Belfast. We believe that Kohei will play an important role for us, and that he’ll be a popular player among the Giants’ faithful.”
Belfast Giants Season Tickets for the 2023/24 season are on sale now. Fixture dates for CHL (Champions Hockey League) and domestic EIHL home games will be announced in the coming weeks. Keep an eye on Belfast Giants’ website and social media channels for the latest news and signing announcements.