The Odyssey Trust, owners of the Stena Line Belfast Giants and The SSE Arena, are delighted to announce the NCAA Division One ice-hockey teams who will travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland for the Northern Irish Connections Friendship Four tournaments on the American Thanksgiving Weekends in 2017 and 2018.

ff-schools-1

The Belfast City Council’s Sister City agreement with Boston has played a vital role in helping to host this prestigious tournament since 2015 and also to see it’s return in 2017 and 2018. The announcement was made on Friday from Boston’s historic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball team, during the ‘Frozen Fenway’ outdoor tournament.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Clarkson University from the ECAC Hockey Conference along with Providence College and the University of Maine from the Hockey East Conference will make up the 2017 competition on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th November.

ECAC’s Yale University and Union College will join Hockey East’s Boston University and University of Connecticut for the 2018 Friendship Four to be held on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th November 2018.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th November 2016 - Photo by William Cherry UMass Minutemen's Griff Jeszka celebrates scoring against Vermont Catamounts during Friday afternoons Friendship Four game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Four teams from the USA are competing in the NCAA mens ice-hockey tournament in the hope of winning the Belpot Trophy. Photo William Cherry/Presseye

The tournaments will once again take place at The SSE Arena, home of the Giants. The arena has hosted the Friendship Four tournament since 2015, when the inaugural tournament featured the ECAC’s Brown University and Colgate University and Hockey East’s UMass Lowell River Hawks and Northeastern Huskies. In 2016, ECAC’s St.Lawrence University and Quinnipiac University featured along with Hockey East’s University of Vermont and University of Massachusetts.

The Friendship Four in 2015 and 2016 was a huge success as the Odyssey Trust opened the doors of W5 as well as The SSE Arena, Belfast for tens of thousands of young people to take part in the festival of ice-hockey and STEM events. The 2015 event marked the first time that NCAA college ice-hockey was played outside of North America.

vermont

In the most recent edition of the tournament in 2016, 22,000 fans attended the four ice-hockey games over Thanksgiving weekend with 70 television networks showing the games across USA, Canada, United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, making the tournament one of Northern Ireland’s most televised sporting events ever.

Eric Porter, Chairman of the Odyssey Trust:

“We are incredibly thankful to Northern Irish Connections, the Belfast City Council and it’s Sister City partnership who will help to make the 2017 and 2018 events a huge success as well as a great boost to the local economy with a great deal of positive media coverage for Belfast from across the world.”

“We want to make the Friendship Four in 2017 and 2018 open to all and we expect that the city of Belfast will, yet again, open it’s arms to our US guests as well as be excited to see this standard of ice-hockey return to their home arena again for two more years.”

ff-schools-2