I will make Belfast Giants great again, says coach Doug Christiansen
The term ‘comfort zone’ doesn’t exist in Doug Christiansen’s vocabulary.
When someone leaves a no pressure job leading the Edinburgh Capitals to thrust himself into the demands of coaching the Belfast Giants it’s pretty obvious that they don’t settle for an easy ride.
If that’s what Christiansen wanted then he would have signed the contract offered to him by the Capitals management straight away.
Instead, when the chance to lead the Belfast Giants and all that goes with that — having to rise before dawn to travel to and home from away games making it a less than attractive proposition — came along there was only one answer. A definite yes.
Christiansen will be in charge of the Giants for the first time tonight, when they take on defending Elite League champions Coventry Blaze in a Charity Shield game in England. Winning that would be a start, but the Milwaukee native has bigger aims.
“Personally it was a difficult decision to leave Edinburgh, but in terms of hockey it was a no-brainer,” said Christiansen.
“Belfast is a step forward individually, professionally and once I thought about it, it was an easy decision.
“The main attraction was an opportunity to win the championship. They have an opportunity here every year and the fans expect success. I am ambitious and I wanted that level of a challenge.
“You want the job because you want the challenge and with the challenge comes the reward.
“There’s a reason why animals in the zoo pace, it’s because they want to go out and try something else. I decided to stretch my legs and see what we can really do.”
At 32-years-old Christiansen should probably still be skating around carefree and crashing defencemen off the boards rather than have the responsibility of being the coach of one of the biggest teams in UK ice hockey.
He may still turn up on the ice this season, but Christiansen is happy to focus on coaching, with his playing career having hit as high a height as it’s going to.
“I always said that when I got to the stage where I was no longer progressing as a player — like getting through the leagues in north-America — I’d look for a change of direction,” he said.
“During my fifth year as a pro I started in the AHL and was sent down halfway through.
“That was the turning point in my on-ice career. The next season I went to Italy. I had a wonderful time there and I was ready to finish there and then.
“I was going to go to law school to be a lawyer or possibly to be an agent.
“I told my own agent to look for jobs in coaching for me. That was on May 1 and by May 25 I was the coach of Edinburgh and that put my life completely upside down. Now here I am.”
Tonight’s Charity Shield contest with Coventry Blaze is the first of its kind in the Elite League era. It might be a pre-season game, but there has never been anything friendly about Blaze v Giants battles — anyone who saw how Coventry fans and ex-Giant Theo Fleury clashed will bear testimony to that.
And any charity that might be on show won’t last, with Christiansen determined to rip the title out of Coventry’s grasp.
“Paul Thompson does a great job year after year and he’s won five out of eight league titles, which is an astounding record, especially when you consider that some of the other teams spend a bit more or have fancier rinks,” said Christiansen.
“I am looking forward to pushing him.
“He’s got a young, hungry guy who is going to go after him all year and he’s going to have to keep up with the younger guys who want to take him over.”