INTERVIEW: Doug Christiansen

Doug Christiansen arrived in Britain as Player/Coach of Edinburgh Capitals back in 2007.

Christiansen spent three years with the Capitals before joining Belfast Giants as Head Coach for the next three seasons.

An ill-fated spell with Sheffield Steelers in 2013/14 ended in February of that season when he was axed by the club, but he soon joined old friend Jeff Hutchins as Assistant Coach at Dundee Stars whilst also taking on the role of Great Britain Head Coach.

Christiansen was a teammate of Hutchins during his time at Union College from 1998 to 2002 and recalls him being a fearsome competitor.

“He was mean, skilled and committed,” said Christiansen. “He hated to lose and wasn’t afraid to call out a teammate who was not pulling their weight – we even had our first on-ice fight in practice!

“We were great friends then and we had a good scrap. Of course, we laughed about it later.”

During those early years of his career Christiansen was also a teammate of netminder Ty Conklin, who went on to forge a career in the NHL, while he played against Andy McDonald who subsequently won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim Ducks in 2006/07.

He admits his rookie year in the ECHL was difficult as he played for three different teams before settling down with the Charlotte Checkers.

Christiansen’s break-out season came in 2004/05 with Danbury Trashers in the UHL, where he scored 27 goals with 41 assists in 88 games.

Alongside him on the roster were Brent Gretzky (Wayne’s brother), along with tough guys Rumun Ndur, Mario Larocque and Jon Mirasty.

Bruce Richardson and Mike Bayrack, who both went on to play in Britain, were also part of a squad that Christiansen says was one of the toughest he played with.

“At the time that team set the all-time minor league penalty minute record,” he said. “It was surreal. I was probably the 10th or 11th toughest guy on the team.

“We had absolute monsters on that team. All that said, I look back at my career and that was the championship that got away.

“We had the best team, but played a great team in the play-offs. We lost in the sixth game, but we very easily could have won the whole thing.”

The following season Christiansen returned to the ECHL with Reading Royals and was also called up on a few occasions to the AHL. He says he enjoyed the experience.

“I loved the AHL – it was a hard grind to get to it but I was proud of getting there as a non-drafted player,” said Christiansen.

“I played for Bruce Boudreau in Manchester and Hershey – he was great to me and we still keep in contact. I was a fill-in player at that level, but it was still a privilege to play in AHL.”

After a brief spell in Italy, Christiansen joined the Capitals as Player/Coach.

Colin Hemingway and Mike Stutzel were the stand-out players in his first season as the team came close to making the final four.

Injuries blighted Christiansen’s second season but he was impressed with Mark Hurtubise, describing the forward as the best signing he ever made in the Elite League.

Adam Stefishen and Pasi Raitanen were two other notable players from that year, but it was the 2009/10 season that Christiansen looks back on most fondly.

“That was clearly our best team – it was probably helped by the fact that I got hurt the first game!” he said.

“Off the ice that was the hardest year, but the team really rallied together. We almost finished .500 and ended up two points behind Sheffield.

“The team was extremely close. I look back at that team and smile – we had some serious fun.

“Kyle Horne and Ben O’Connor were non-stop laughs. Ben was a special talent. I really enjoyed coaching him in between wanting to strangle him!”

Christiansen joined Belfast Giants as Head Coach in 2010/11. He admits it was a wrench to leave Edinburgh, but it was a move which offered him a genuine chance of winning the league.

Despite the two clubs operating on vastly differing budgets, Christiansen says being in charge of the Giants was still a massive challenge.

“With Belfast it was not only about winning, it was about winning with style,” said Christiansen.

“We were 124-24-10 in three years yet we still had our critics. My last year in Belfast was as hard as any I can remember.

“The ownership change made it inevitable that Todd Kelman and I would leave – I just happened to leave a year early.

“Jim Gillespie (the owner in his first two years) was one of the best men I ever met. He was a true gentleman.

“The Odyssey taking over was a necessary evil, but it changed the direction of the club forever.”

Christiansen moved to Sheffield in 2013, lasting just over half a season before he was fired. He says his dismissal was ‘one of the best things that ever happened to me’ but it wasn’t long before he was back in the game with Dundee Stars and Great Britain.

Stars clinched the Gardiner Conference title at the end of that season and Christiansen says it was fun to see his friend Hutchins enjoy success as a coach.

After returning to the USA Christiansen set up home in Milwaukee, before accepting a role with the USHL as Director of Player Development and Recruitment in September 2014.

He says his biggest thrill during his time in Britain was winning the title at home in Belfast and even confesses he slept with the trophy for a week.

Christiansen also believes the league should honour Britain’s best-ever player by renaming their trophy after him and thinks one of Capitals’ finest imports deserves a testimonial.

“The trophy is called the Monteith bowl,” said Christiansen. “It should be named after Tony Hand – period.

“I also hope Martin Cingel gets a true testimonial. No player has been through more than him.

“It would be a shame to let that moment pass. I would pay for my own flight to come and honour him.”

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