Friendship Four returning to Belfast in 2017, 2018

Press Eye - Belfast -  Northern Ireland - 25th November 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Vermont Catamounts' Ross Colton and Brady Shaw with UMass Minutemen's Ryan Wischow and Shane Bear 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 (©William Cherry / Presseye)
Vermont and Massachusetts battle on Nov. 25 in one of the four games from the 2016 Friendship Four event (photo: William Cherry).

The Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland, will go on for two more years.

On Tuesday, the Odyssey Trust, owners of the Stena Line Belfast Giants and the SSE Arena in Belfast, announced that the event will run Nov. 24-25, 2017, and Nov. 23-24, 2018.

The participating teams, along with ticketing information, will be announced in January at the Frozen Fenway event in Boston.

“The Sister City agreement has allowed the Odyssey Trust the honor of hosting this prestigious tournament for two years and also to see it’s return in 2017 and 2018,” said Odyssey Trust chairman Eric Porter in a statement. “We are incredibly thankful to Northern Irish Connections, the Belfast City Council and all our partners who helped make the 2016 event a huge success and the 2017 and 2018 tournaments will again provide 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 its arms to our U.S. guests as well as be excited to see this standard of ice hockey return to their home arena again for two more years.”

Last weekend, 22,000 fans attended the four games over Thanksgiving weekend with 70 television networks showing the games across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland, making the tournament one of Northern Ireland’s most televised events ever.

“The goal for the Friendship Four was always about more than ice hockey, to make ice hockey the excuse and to date, we have done that with the education visits and STEM events that surround the tournament,” added Odyssey head of hockey operations Steve Thornton. “The Friendship Four is not just about the Odyssey Trust and the Belfast Giants. These U.S. universities will return home talking about the people of Northern Ireland and just how friendly this place is.

“The Friendship Four is an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

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