The off-ice report

Wednesday, 27th July 2005
The coaching position at Belfast Giants has been one of much speculation this summer, with rumours abound as to who would take over from the departed Tony Hand.  At last the speculation has been ended with the announcement that ex San Jose Sharks player Ed Courtenay will be stepping into the top spot for the 2005-2006 season.  Courtenay, who has played in the UK with Sheffield Steelers and Ayr Scottish Eagles, comes to the Giants after filling an assistant coaching role with South Carolina Stingrays.  Giants General Manager John Elliott is pleased to confirm the signing, stating that "I am delighted that Ed Courtenay has agreed to coach the Belfast Giants next season and I believe the fans will agree. Ed brings a combination of very high calibre playing qualities, an excellent coaching reputation and extensive contacts throughout ice hockey in Europe and North America."
The 2005 Giants roster won't be featuring forward Fredrik Nasvall, with the Swede having signed up with Nordic Vikings.  The Vikings have also recently announced the signing of former London Racers player Erik Zachrisson.  The Giants will also be without defenceman Roman Gavalier, who has signed with Unia Oswiecim in Poland.
Hot on the heels of last week's announcement that Bob Phillips had purchased Sheffield Steelers from Norton Lea, the Steelers have swooped to capture the signature of Grand-Slam winning netminder Jody Lehman.  Lehman back-stopped Coventry Blaze to all three titles on offer in the Elite League last season, and his move to Sheffield sees the likely departure of ex-Phoenix netminder Jayme Platt, who spent last season with the Steelers. Coach Paul Heavey is delighted with the signing of Lehman, proclaiming "This is a big signing for us, Jody is known around the league as a winner and we want to win here, Jody Lehman would not be coming to Sheffield if he didn't think we had a chance of bringing success back to this building."
Re-signing for another season with the Steelers is Paul Sample, the young British player who made his mark on the league with the Belfast Giants in the 2003-2004 season.  Sample is happy to re-sign with the Sheffield team, saying "With the positive changes happening with the Steelers club and the ownership change, why would I want to go anywhere else, I enjoyed playing for Heaves last year."
The Steelers will be without the services of forward Jeff Christian this season, with the ex-Pittsburgh Penguins star signing up as player / assistant coach with the Youngstown Steelhounds of the CHL.
Basingstoke Bison have secured the signature of veteran British forward Mark Galazzi, who played last season with Bracknell Bees.  Bison coach Mark Bernard says of Galazzi, "At the end of the day Mark is a veteran player that can fill a very specific role with our club, he will bring energy and leadership and I'm very excited we have him."  The Bison have also signed Nicky Watt on a two-way contract with Slough Jets.
Play-Off Finalists Nottingham Panthers will be without Scott Ricci this season, with the defenceman reportedly signing for Asiago Hockey AS in Italy.
Cardiff Devils have re-signed defenceman Kirk DeWaele, with the ex-Sheffield Steelers player staying on in Wales for a second season.
Defenceman Jim Vickers has signed with the Edinburgh Capitals, having spent last season with London Racers.
Andre Payette forward Coventry Blaze have made the move to Newcastle Vipers for the forthcoming season, and coach Rob Wilson couldn't be happier.  "We're delighted to have Andre's signature on a contract with this team," says Wilson. "He will be an impact forward for us this year, as opposed to the out and out enforcer role he had last season. The Vipers are already well covered in that regard, so Andre will be allowed to play hockey a lot more, and hopefully that will show in the goals column at the end of the season. We will still have his great presence on the ice, but he won't feel the need to take on other teams' tough guys single-handed."
by Richard Allan