Doug Christiansen has sensationally quit the Belfast Giants, less than 48 hours after their Play-off final defeat at the hands of the Nottingham Panthers.
Christiansen stunned the clubs owners and general manager Todd Kelman by informing them on Monday evening that he is leaving the Odyssey Arena after three years in charge of the Giants.
And to add to the drama, Christiansen will take up a new post as coach of the Giants’ huge rivals, the Sheffield Steelers.
The 34-year-old Milwaukee native will be remembered for leading the Giants to the Elite League in 2012, when ironically they beat the Steelers at the Odyssey to pip them to the crown.
However, he leaves the club just a year after agreeing a new two-year contract.
A statement released by the Giants management on Monday night read: “Less than 24 hours after he was behind the bench in the Playoff Championship game, Doug Christiansen informed the Belfast Giants that he is leaving the team to coach the Sheffield Steelers.
“Christiansen has spent three seasons with the club and led the team to the Elite League title in 2012. This season the Giants finished in second place but won the inaugural Earhardt Conference Trophy.
“The Giants were only informed after 6pm on Monday night by Doug Christiansen and have been left shocked by the timing of this.
“Still the Giants Organisation would like to thank Doug Christiansen for his 100% work ethic and commitment to the Giants during his three years behind the bench for the Belfast Giants.
“The search for the new head coach of the Belfast Giants will start today.”
Meanwhile, Craig Peacock has revealed the depth of the disappointment felt among the Giants players as they bade farewell to each other the morning after their Play-off final defeat to the Panthers.
After finishing as runners-up to Nottingham in both the league and the Play-offs, as well as suffering a Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to the Panthers, there is no silver lining to the Giants season.
The dejected and deflated players spent a last few hours together reflecting on what might have been before some — like Peacock — head off with the Great Britain national team, others will go straight back to north America and never return, while those in the University of Ulster programme will be in Belfast until the end of the academic year.
“It’s always tough when you’re saying goodbye to guys that for the last eight months you’ve spent every day with,” said Peacock.
“We’ve travelled together, socialised together and we’re a tight group.
“It’s a shame when you have to say goodbye. Some will retire and have played their last game and the team breaks up now.
“That’s the way it is every year, but it is even more disappointing this time.”