What Grant Cooper, Ryan Aldridge and Adam Keefe had to say about the Leeds Knights' forward's move to Belfast Giants

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GRANT COOPER issued a heartfelt thanks to Leeds Knights and their fans after sealing his dream move to the Elite League with Belfast Giants.

The 26-year-old Canadian has made a dramatic impact since joining the Knights last summer, posting over 70 points in 32 games, scoring his 36th goal of the campaign in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at Peterborough Phantoms, his last game for the club.

Within an hour of Leeds announcing Jake Witkowski as their new import forward for the remainder of the season, news came out confirming that it was Belfast where Cooper would be heading to next.

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On his Twitter account, Cooper revealed how much he had enjoyed his time in West Yorkshire during his first season of hockey outside his native Canada.

“Thank you to the Leeds Knights organisation for allowing me the opportunity to play professional hockey across the pond,” said Cooper.

“It has been nothing but great since the day I landed here – from the ownership, coaches, staff and team-mates I have felt welcomed and can’t thank everyone enough.”

Cooper also had a message for the Knights’ fans, adding: “Thank you for accepting a smalltown Canadian boy into your city, your arena and your chants.

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“It has been great to put on the Knights logo every game and to hear your passion for the team.

HEADING OUT: Grant Cooper has sealed a dream move to the Elite League with Belfast Giants after taking NIHL National by storm with Leeds Knights. Picture courtesy of Oliver PortamentoHEADING OUT: Grant Cooper has sealed a dream move to the Elite League with Belfast Giants after taking NIHL National by storm with Leeds Knights. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento
HEADING OUT: Grant Cooper has sealed a dream move to the Elite League with Belfast Giants after taking NIHL National by storm with Leeds Knights. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento

“There is not enough thanks and appreciation to Leeds to go around but it’s time to get the next chapter in my hockey journey started with the Belfast Giants.

“I’m looking forward to arriving in Belfast and getting started. I’ve heard great things about the club and the fanbase. My plan when I hit the ice is to get straight to work, compete to the best of my ability, make offensive plays, and hopefully win some games.”

Knights’ head coach Aldridge admitted he was sorry to lose such an influential player as Cooper but, having brought in Witkowski and aware of his team’s widespread scoring quality, is confident his team can cope. He also believes Cooper will thrive in his new surroundings.

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"He came in and he was exactly what I was hoping he would be and what I guess I was expecting him to be – maybe even a little bit more,” said Aldridge.

THANKS: Grant Cooper issued a heartfelt message of thanks to Leeds Knights and their fans following five successful months in West Yorkshire, ahead of a switch to the Elite League with the Belfast Giants. Picture courtesy of Oliver PortamentoTHANKS: Grant Cooper issued a heartfelt message of thanks to Leeds Knights and their fans following five successful months in West Yorkshire, ahead of a switch to the Elite League with the Belfast Giants. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento
THANKS: Grant Cooper issued a heartfelt message of thanks to Leeds Knights and their fans following five successful months in West Yorkshire, ahead of a switch to the Elite League with the Belfast Giants. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento

“He played that typical North American way, blocked shots, took the body, played the game hard in all areas and I don’t think the league could handle him, they weren’t used to playing against somebody who plays like that.

"I think the role he’s going to play out there is going to be perfect for him. If he goes in there and is prepared to play hard and the way he did for us – there are not going to be no expectations on him to score 30 goals – he’ll be a good fit for that team.”

Head coach Adam Keefe, whose team currently sit third in the EIHL standings, admitted the Giants had been tracking Cooper’s progress in Leeds for some time.

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"Grant has been on our radar throughout this season, since he signed with the Leeds Knights, he’s had a great season there,” said Keefe. “He comes with great references about his two-way game, and willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”