Belfast hockey captain draws crowds for unity


Belfast hockey captain draws crowds for unity
2 February 2023

Bringing together hockey supporters from across Belfast, David Goodwin, captain of the Belfast Giants ice hockey team, sat down for a conversation with Mark Simpson, reporter for the BBC, as part of the annual 4 Corners Festival. The event was hosted at the Agape Centre on Lisburn Road in south Belfast. 

Belfast musician Andrew Patterson played four of his songs, including Hope Will Find Its Way, throughout the event. His music focused on themes of hope, faith, and perseverance in times of hardship. 

Simpson opened the conversation with Goodwin by inquiring about Goodwin’s background and childhood. Goodwin shared that he is from St Louis, Missouri in the US and grew up as the middle child among his four other siblings. He began playing ice hockey at the age of 4 or 5 and was drawn to the competitive nature of hockey. Goodwin stated that he took ice hockey more seriously in high school, which eventually led to playing hockey at Penn State. Upon graduating in 2017, he was offered an opportunity to play hockey in Finland and decided to take the chance to play professionally in another country. 

Regarding Goodwin’s decision to move to Belfast, Simpson asked whether Goodwin’s parents had any reservations about him living in a city with such a difficult history. The Giants captain affirmed that, while there was no pushback from his parents, there was mild concern that led to Goodwin ensuring he was properly aware of the context he was entering.

After laughing about the lack of similarities between the US and Northern Ireland, Goodwin recounted an early memory of living in Belfast when he asked a stranger for directions to a restaurant, which ended with the stranger escorting Goodwin all the way to his destination. “It has something, it’s unique in a way, very friendly, very welcoming,” he said about Belfast. Goodwin noted the decision to return to Belfast after briefly playing elsewhere for a season was a “no-brainer”.

Simpson asked Goodwin to reflect on a line from one of Andrew Patterson’s songs, “Hope isn’t easy.” The athlete agreed that in the current environment, things can be difficult, making it hard to be hopeful but affirmed the need for hope to persevere through hard times: “Hope is everything”. 

Mentioning that Goodwin’s father built bridges as an occupation, Simpson observed that Goodwin was also a bridge builder in his own right as a hockey player in Belfast. Goodwin agreed that part of the role of the Giants is to bring together supporters from all parts of Belfast and that he felt privileged to be a part of that mission. 

During the Q&A with the audience, Goodwin shared the importance of not having his entire identity based on being a hockey player and credited his Christian faith and prayer to help him maintain perspective. He spoke on the challenges of promoting team cohesion amid roster changes and explained some of the differences between hockey in North America and Northern Ireland. 

Goodwin went on to share that he feels a responsibility to help new players experience the excitement of victories and representing Belfast. In response to an audience member sharing about proposing to his spouse at a Giants game, Goodwin recalled his fondest memory as team captain was winning the league championship the previous season and shared some of the experiences he has enjoyed while living in Northern Ireland. 

Simpson closed the conversation by asking Goodwin if he had any dreams or visions for Belfast, in keeping with the theme for the 4 Corners Festival. The hockey captain responded that there has been a lot of growth in Belfast, and he would like to see that continue. “It does seem like the development has been positive in my short time here.” 

In an evening filled with laughter, heartwarming memories, and shared zeal for Belfast hockey, the potential for sports to inspire unity across Belfast was clear and made hope feel a little easier. 

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