Derrick Walser appointed new coach of Belfast Giants

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New Belfast Giants player-coach Derrick Walser

Former NHL defenceman Derrick Walser has joined the Belfast Giants as player-coach.

The 37-year-old from Nova Scotia has signed a two-year contract with the Elite League side and takes over the coaching from Steve Thornton.

As part of a management restructure, Thornton will be concentrating on his job as Head Of Hockey Operations.

Former Giants stars Rob Stewart, Shane Johnson, Brandon Benedict are on the backroom team with captain Adam Keefe.

Walser 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 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 and 2014/15 seasons.

Stewart, who steps 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.

Canadian defenceman Derrick Walser has played in North America and Europe
Canadian defenceman Derrick Walser has played in North America and Europe

It includes the retirement of his number 16 jersey, over 250 games played, four league titles and two Play-off 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.

Johnson will also take up the role as Project Manager for the upcoming NCAA Friendship Four tournament to be held in Belfast.

Benedict returns to Belfast from the Nottingham Panthers, where he spent four seasons, winning six major championships in the role as captain.

He played for the Giants in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons, and his appointment as player/assistant coach also provides Belfast cover in case of injuries.

Keefe will step up into the role of player/assistant coach in his sixth season with the Giants and he will retain the captaincy for a fourth straight year.

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