Awada says it’s good to be back with the Giants

New Belfast Giants assistant coach George Awada has been back with the team a number of weeks now.

He admits, while some things have changed, that the ethos of the team and the drive to win is a constant and has not changed one bit since he was last part of the organisation.

Earlier this week he took some time out of his busy schedule with the team to speak to the News Letter about his return to Northern Ireland.

“It’s all good. It feels like I never left,” he says. “I am back down living where I was 10 years ago when I was playing, the commute is all the same.”

Giants legend George Awada in action during September 2011. Awada has returned to Belfast as assistant coach. Picture: Michael Cooper

He continues: “Things have change for sure, but the feeling of being back at the SSE and being part of the organisation again. It is great where it has gotten to in those years that I have been away. But I still have a desire to be there and my passion for hockey is still as strong as ever.

“I may be a little older and I may no longer be playing, but being back with everybody. I know Keefer and Stewy from years back and all the other people you used to see around are still there.

“But the organisation has been moved times a hundred, especially since the Odyssey Trust took over. Steve [Thornton] and the Trust have done a tremendous job.”

Reflecting on how the opportunity to return to the Giants as assistant coach Awada says it was all good timing.

Belfast Giants' Steven Owre with Fife Flyers' Reece Cochrane during last Saturday's Challenge Cup game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture by William Cherry/Presseye

He says: “It was all timing. I was coaching over in the States and it just felt like it was a good time to come back to the Giants.

“It just so happened that Jeff Mason had left for the Stars. I honestly don’t know how to explain it, maybe it was the hockey gods, things just fell into place.

“It had to work for the team as well, but it worked for all parties.

“I have been involved with hockey every since I stopped playing here, so it is a continuation of what I have been doing since retiring from playing.”

Belfast Giants' Scott Conway with Fife Flyers' Brayden Sherbinin during last Saturday's Challenge Cup game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture by William Cherry/Presseye

He continues: “I have always followed the team and I have been impressed with what Keefer has done. Whether or not they were champions, and last year was a great year, I still wanted to be involved with this organisation.”

Awada says its funny how things have turned out. He says: “When you play with somebody, like Keefer, you never know what the future holds. Some guys will go on to coach and others may not.

“My last season was Keefer’s first here. I had no idea his track was going to be either before or after.

“He was a great player and he played for his team, he was just one of those guys you wanted as a team mate.

“Whatever track he was on, he has got to where he is right now and he has done really well with it.”

He also says it has been great to reacquaint with Rob Stewart. He says: “The man never ages. I am sure he could still play.

“Stewy has had an amazing experience here in Northern Ireland, he has seen so much and done so much too.

“When I was in Manchester I think I played against him, he was maybe starting his coaching with Dave Whistle, and I have known him that long.

“I always got on well with him when I was playing, so it is really to be in that room now coaching with Stewy and Keefer as we have all the generations of the Giants’ history together now.”

Awada believes, while it still early days in the new season, there is great promise in the 2022/3 Giants roster.

He says: “It was a bit of a shock to come across from the States and be thrown right into the Champions League. Getting to see those European teams was quite something.

“The way that the team has responded, especially the last against Trinec, was great. I have had to quickly to learn their various personalities and what they are about.

“I was impressed by the number of Americans who are now on the team, when I first moved to the Giants I was the only American on the roster and possibly in the league too.

“It is super to see all the college kids over here in Belfast pursuing their hockey careers. They are good players, they simply wouldn’t be here if they weren’t good enough.

“It is still early in the season, its a different team from last season, but the sooner that we get the buy in with the culture with this group then we should have another good season.”