Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Rivals race to become new Belfast Giants coach

Todd Kelman had to find replacement coach
Todd Kelman had to find replacement coach

Belfast Giants general manager Todd Kelman has revealed he was given no opportunity to keep departed coach Doug Christiansen at the Odyssey Arena.

He is, however, already sifting through a huge amount of emails from potential candidates who have already indicated an interest in leading the Giants.

Christiansen stunned the club and the fans on Monday evening when he announced he was leaving Belfast, less than 24 hours after the Giants suffered play-off final defeat to the Nottingham Panthers, before being offical rolled out as the Steelers new coach yesterday afternoon.

"Doug's decision to leave Belfast came as a massive shock. He called me on Monday evening to tell me that he was talking the job in Sheffield and that was the first I even heard about it," said Kelman.

"There was no discussion. There was no 'I've got offered this job, what do you think?' just that he was going.

"There was nothing I could do when I get a call at 6pm and the press conference is less than 24 hours later."

Already there are a number of strong contenders for the post. Dave Whistle – who was the first man to coach the Giants, leading the club to the Superleague title in 2002 and Play-off glory a year later – was keen on taking the Sheffield job before losing out to Christiansen.

Dave Matsos, who played in both those triumphs under Whistle before going on to coach the Steelers to back-to-back league titles in 2008 and 2009, is now coaching a junior team in Canada, but is understood to be interested in returning to Europe.

And there could even be a sensational return to Belfast for Steve Thornton.

He led the team to the play-off championship in 2010 only to walk away from the sport immediately after.

He is believed to have a desire to return to ice hockey and the opportunity to coach in Belfast again is one he would find hard to turn down.

Another former Giants coach, Ed Courtenay, is also believed to have thrown his hat into the ring for the Sheffield job, but it is unlikely he would be so keen to come back to Belfast, where he never really found favour with the fans, despite winning the league in 2006.

Ryan Finnerty, who was sacked by Sheffield last week after a trophyless season, isn't thought to be a runner. He is believed to be the leading candidate to take over at Braehead Clan.

Their former coach Paul Gardner may, however, be keen after he too missed out on the position in Sheffield.

"I haven't spoken to anyone yet because I wasn't expecting to be in this position," said Kelman.

"I will be in touch with some people in the coming days, but already I have over 30 emails from coaches who are interested in taking the job.

"This is a job that coaches want. It's a high-profile position at one of the top three clubs in the league.

"We are only a couple of days into the off-season, so there is no rush. At this time of the year clubs are more interested in getting their players on flights back to north America than hiring coaches.

"Sheffield needed a good news story after a bad season, which is probably why they acted so fast."

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