The Friendship Four 2019 hockey tournament is back as the thrill and excitement of American college hockey returns to The SSE Arena, Belfast on the 29th and 30th November for the fifth consecutive year.
The ice hockey tournaments present a unique opportunity for local sports fans to watch the only National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hockey tournament that takes place outside of the United States. The 2019 tournament consists of a four-game competition which will see talented top-level student athletes from Princeton University, Colgate University, Northeastern University and The University of New Hampshire, compete for the prestigious Belpot trophy.
Over 20,000 spectators are expected to head to The SSE Arena, Belfast to watch the action unfold during America’s culturally significant Thanksgiving holiday period on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th November 2019.
Today’s launch event also sees the announcement of the second international NCAA Women’s Friendship Series. Teams from Merrimack College and Quinnipiac University will compete on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th January 2020 at The SSE Arena, Belfast.
Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Odyssey Trust said, “The Odyssey Trust is very proud that the Friendship Four tournament is entering its fifth year of competition and it is an honour to welcome our guests from Princeton University, Colgate University, Northeastern University and The University of New Hampshire. It is a great privilege for Belfast to continue to host the only competitive NCAA games outside of America and we look forward to another fantastic tournament at The SSE Arena, Belfast.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane commented, “Today’s launch marks the start of an exciting few weeks as we get ready to host the fifth Friendship Four tournament. Belfast City Council recognises the strategic importance of this event as it deepens the connections between Sister Cities Belfast and Boston.
In addition to the competition on the ice, the tournament forges links between our city partners and our American guests to promote Belfast as a place to study, visit and invest in. No doubt the tournament will result in energetic and dramatic sporting action and I hope all those who come in November will develop a lasting bond with Belfast and find many reasons to return!
Friendship Four’s success is manifested in the inclusion of a second women’s competition in January 2020 and the inclusion of a third Conference bringing new contenders for the men’s Belpot trophy in 2020. I am proud that Belfast is attracting such a high level of interest in and from American college sport and look forward to witnessing the high quality of play on 29th November and 30th November in The SSE Arena, Belfast.”
Aine Kearney, Business Support and Events Director, Tourism NI said, “We are delighted to once again support the Friendship Four Tournament through the International Tourism Events Fund. Hosting this exciting tournament in The SSE Arena, Belfast offers a unique opportunity to watch the only NCAA college hockey tournament to be held outside of the United States. Events such as the Friendship Four NCAA Hockey Tournament are key to ensuring our continued success in growing our visitor numbers, particularly from our international markets. We wish the organisers and players the very best for what I am sure will be another successful tournament.”
Steve Hagwell from the ECAC Hockey Commission added, “It truly is remarkable that we are set to conduct the fifth annual Friendship Four and second annual Friendship Series in Belfast. Each of the previous events have provided lifetime memories for coaches, student-athlete, staff and visitors.”
The Friendship Four Tournament began in 2015 in support of the Boston and Belfast Sister Cities Agreement which was designed to foster stronger economic development, trade and investment, tourism, cultural exchange and educational linkages between the two cities.