Belfast Telegraph

Dundee Stars v Belfast Giants - Walser eyes historic title treble

By Stuart McKinley

Derrick Walser is aiming right for the top.

The new Belfast Giants coach makes no secret of the fact that after stepping onto the first rung of the ladder, his ultimate goal is to make it to the NHL, where he played 91 times for the Colombus Blue Jackets between 2001 and 2007.

Giants fans needn't worry that the 37-year-old is going to jump ship at the earliest opportunity, though. Walser actually turned down a lucrative offer to continue playing in Germany in order to take up the job as player-coach at the Odyssey and also knocked back interest from elsewhere once word of his intention to step into coaching got around.

And rather than being scared off by the level of expectation from the Giants fans, he has his sights set on being the first coach to bring all three trophies to Belfast in one season.

"You don't play hockey to lose. If you come here to play to lose, why play?" said Walser, who was appointed to allow Giants Director of Hockey Operations Steve Thornton to focus on other areas of the organisation.

"Even though for other teams it may be a big climb up the hill, you show up to win.

"I don't care what it is, even when I play Crazy 8s with my kids, sorry, I play to win. There's no easy way to put it. That's the competitive nature in me.

"There are three things we can go for, the league, the Play-offs and the Challenge Cup and my goal is to win all three.

"Our expectation is to compete and win them."

High aims indeed, but that seems to be in Walser's nature.

The German DEL is regarded as the best league in Europe and Walser spent a total of four seasons there, playing with Berlin.

He knew little or nothing about the Elite League when the opportunity with the Giants came along completely out of the blue, but he has learned quickly and is willing to spend time taking more on board on his route to the top.

"I didn't know a lot about this league a couple of months ago, it was never on my radar, but when you get an opportunity like this it gets on your radar pretty quickly," said Walser, who will lead the Giants for the first time tonight when they travel to the Dundee Stars in the Challenge Cup.

"This is my stepping stone to make my way back. I want to coach in the NHL. I don't care if that's as an assistant coach, but I want to be in the best league and you've got to set dreams and aim high.

"It is well known that I turned down a really good offer to go somewhere else - not in this league, in the DEL (German League)."

Wanting to coach in the NHL is one thing, doing it is another, but Walser can see the journey that he needs to take and he is in no rush away from Belfast.

"I'm guessing my process here is I'll know how to deal with individuals, get a job back home, maybe in the major junior or assistant coach pro. I will put applications in and go step by step," he said.

"Like anything, you start at the bottom of the business, step up, step up, network, know the right people who have faith in you.

"Once I took this job there were opportunities to talk elsewhere and I said no, I'm no ready yet.

"I can't go into something and someone put me on the spot. I know my Xs and Os in hockey, but I know my weaknesses too.

"I want to learn my trade."

Belfast Telegraph


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