Davey Phillips on making the switch from Sheffield Steelers to Elite League rivals Belfast Giants
Despite being disappointed at not being offered a new deal by Sheffield Steelers after a seven-year spell there, the 35-year-old GB international could not have done any better for himself in terms of his next employer.
This week saw Phillips announced as Belfast Giants’ first confirmed signing ahead of the 2023-24 Elite League season, a campaign which sees Adam Keefe’s team look to defend their triple crown of league, Challenge Cup and play-off titles after a stunning 2022-23 campaign.
The SSE Arena is a familiar venue for Phillips, with his return there marking a third spell at the club, first playing there in 2008-09 before, following stints in North America and Europe, returning for three seasons between 2012-2015.
Phillips has tasted success in Belfast before, winning a cup double during his first year before lifting a regular season league title in 2013-14.
He also enjoyed success in Sheffield, winning a play-off title and a Challenge Cup. But the league proved elusive during his time in South Yorkshire, the last three full seasons in particular promising so much before failing to deliver that elusive regular season championship.
He returns to Northern Ireland convinced he will end his wait for a second league title under Keefe.
“It’s just sport isn’t it, it’s just business,” said Phillips on his departure from the Steelers. “They need to make business decisions and do what they think is best for the team.
“I was disappointed. I’d been there for seven years and I’d built up some good relationships. But it is what it is, I’m not going to cry about it - I always try to look forward and move on in life and I wish everybody at Steelers the best and I leave with fond memories.
“It would have been nice to win the league in Sheffield, course it would, but I’ve spent a lot of my life looking back and wishing this, that and the other and it doesn’t get you anywhere.
“And that is something I’ve tried to get better with as I’ve got older and the only thing you can really do is look forward, not back.
“So now I’m just looking at the positives and the fact that I’m going to the top team in the league, a team that has won the regular season title for the past two seasons and every trophy that was up for grabs last season.
“If I was going to go anywhere else, I wanted to come to Belfast. I’ve got good relationships from playing there previously and I want to win.
“I want to win the league and they have proved in the last couple of years that they are the best team in the league.
“I’m just relishing the opportunity of going back there - to have the best team in the league come after you, it was humbling and made me feel good about myself as a player.”
Moving back across the Irish Sea sees Phillips continue a long and fruitful relationship with Giants’ head coach Keefe, one that began when the two played alongside each other for Toledo Walleye in the ECHL back in 2010-11.
Keefe joined Belfast the following season with Phillips following him there a year later.
The two have also worked closely while on Great Britain duty since Keefe was added to the backroom team by head coach Pete Russell in 2017.