The Giants roll back the memories by signing another Whistle
The Stena Line Belfast Giants have finally settled their starting pair of puck stoppers. They have secured the signatures of not one but two goalies. Starting netminder Stephen Murphy will be supported by Jackson Whistle (a familiar name to Giants’ fans) understudying for Murphy for the 2016/17 Elite League season.
Whilst Murphy returns for his eighth season with the Giants the surprise signing of former Head Coach Dave Whistle’s son Jackson came as a shot out of the blue! Whistle junior joins from the WHL (Western Hockey League).
Murphy in the heat of the action for the Giants
Looking back at Stephen Murphy’s playing history with the Giants, Steve Thornton signed the Scot from the Manchester Phoenix in 2009. The Giants went on to win their second ever Playoff Championship at the end of Murphy’s first season in Belfast with the netminder starring in the penalty shots’ win in the grand final against the Cardiff Devils.
Awarding winning Giants goalie receiving trophy for achievement from Wayne Hardman
Since Murphy’s debut season in Northern Ireland, he has been the backbone and workhorse of the Giants’ team, collecting All-Star awards and winning the British Netminder of the Year award on eight occasions on his way to backstopping the organization to Elite League titles in the 2011/12 and 2013/14 seasons.
Jackson Whistle in action
Murphy’s backup, hopefully being one Jackson Whistle, is one of the two sons from the Whistle family. Jackson joins the Giants from the Kelowna Rockets WHL following four seasons there after being traded from the Vancouver Giants where he made his debut at the age of just 16.
During Jackson’s time in Kelowna, his average GAA was 2.43 with an average save percentage of 919. In the 2014/15 season the 21-year-old 6’1” netminder backstopped the Rockets to their first WHL championship since 2009 who, agonizingly lost out in overtime in the final of the CHL’s Memorial Cup.
Jackson Whistle works hard at his game
Jackson Whistle, who played his junior hockey in the UK, will count as a non-import player in the EIHL. His familiar surname evokes fond memories of his father David who was the first ever Head Coach of the Giants, bringing a league title and a playoff championship to Belfast in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
Steve Thornton, Giants’ Head of Hockey Operations, on the signings of Stephen Murphy and Jackson Whistle commented, “The decision to sign Stephen Murphy is one of the easiest for me to make each year. Murphy has been the backbone of our organization since I signed him back in 2009 and has backstopped us to a Playoff title as well as two Elite League championships.”
I am excited to bring Jackson Whistle to Belfast. First and foremost, he is an excellent goalie with impressive stats in the WHL for the Kelowna Rockets and helped them win the championship in 2015. He is a big goalie at 6’1” and I expect him to compete with Stephen Murphy for the starting net-minding duties this season.
It is also great to have a Whistle back in Belfast with Jackson following in the footsteps of his father David who was the Giants’ inaugural coach and left a great legacy behind in Belfast, giving us two of our championship banners.”
With Derrick Walser’s ambitions to play four-line hockey for the Giants whilst rolling six defense men and now two goalies with the possible addition of Andrew Dickson as the third, the Giants will finally have a full package to compete with in the Elite League after the last few imports are announced.
They say goaltenders not only mature with age like a quality wine but also improve year by year. Notwithstanding that thought the Giants now have two netminders to backup Murphy. Finally the Giants can grow their defensive core knowing they have a firm squad of puck stoppers to keep the goals against tally down to game winning level.
The season is starting to look promising after two rather disappointing previous Belfast Giants’ campaigns. The Giants start with the following preseason matchups to mold the squad together. Bremerhaven Pinguins on Saturday and Sunday on the 20/21 of August followed by Braehead Clan on the 27th of August 2016
As ever there is all to play for in the upcoming season starting with the Giants icing away to the Fife Flyers on the 3rd of Sept 7.30 faceoff in the Giants first Challenge Cup fixture. The first Belfast home game of the new campaign will take place in the SSE Arena on Saturday 10th September against the same Fife Flyers.
Written by Wayne Hardman