Published Monday, 11 February 2013
Belfast Giant Graeme Walton talks to UTV ahead of his testimonial game. (© UTV)
The 30-year-old defenseman, affectionately known as Wally, has racked up 10 years of service with his home team - becoming the first Northern Irish player to ever be selected for the national GB team along the way.
Having also helped the Giants to a host of trophies over the years, Walton's now looking to celebrate in style. And he's bringing back some familiar faces to help him do just that.
This is his team more so than it will ever be mine. The Giants belong to the people of Belfast ... Graeme GETS IT. Always has. Always will.
Todd Kelman, Belfast Giants
"A lot of the players, whenever I put it to them, were like: 'I'm in'," Walton told UTV, ahead of the big night at the Odyssey Arena.
"Everyone who's played in Belfast loves the city, loves being here - so, whenever I asked them, there was no doubt in their mind they were coming back."
Among those returning are fan favourites Steve Thornton, George Awada, Mike Hoffman, Mark 'The Mo-Train' Morrison, and many more.
Current general manager Todd Kelman will also be getting his skates on, playing for the Graeme Walton Allstars against the Belfast Giants.
Writing for the team's website, Kelman has already paid tribute to the man that he says "just gets" what it really means to be a Belfast Giant and an ambassador for ice hockey.
"To have our longest serving Giant of all time actually being from Belfast is so special and probably the most impressive accomplishment of his to date," he said.
"You all know that I LOVE the Belfast Giants and I have made it my life for the last 13 years, but no matter how much I go on about what it means to be part of the Giants and all the good we have done here on and off the ice, I never will have the same passion or appreciation for this team that Graeme has."
Ice hockey's a family sport. There aren't many sports here in Northern Ireland the whole family can go and relax and enjoy it.
Graeme Walton, Belfast Giants
Kelman added that the local kid that never thought he would be a Giant ended up becoming everything that a Belfast Giant should be.
"He knows that this team belongs more to the people who cheer from the stands than it does to the players wearing the jerseys," he said.
"He knows that playing for his hometown team was his own little NHL."
Face-off is in Tuesday night's testimonial game at the Odyssey Arena is at 7.30pm.
© UTV News