Doug Christiansen’s plans after finishing his college hockey career at Union in 2002 included starting law school the next fall so that he could become a player agent.
But a chance to play hockey in Great Britain eventually led to a coaching career there.
Now, after seven years coaching across the Atlantic, Christiansen is back in the United States, looking to begin the next phase of his coaching career.
Christiansen, who was a forward and defenseman for the Dutchmen from 1998-2002, hopes to land a coaching position with either a pro or college team. He recently attended the college coaches convention in Naples, Fla.
“That’s the active question I’m dealing with,” said Christiansen, who had 16 goals and 12 assists in 102 career games. “The college game is very different from the pro game. I wanted to re-educate myself on the college game, having been away from it as long as I’ve have. It was fun to catch up with [former Union coaches] Kevin Sneddon, John Micheletto and Kevin Patrick, people I feel strongly about and have strong relationships with. I’ve got a couple of interviews lined up at the professional level. A lot of the movement starts at the NHL level and slowly trickles down to the American [Hockey] League and the East Coast League. It’s a matter of making sure that when those interviews come, we get the jobs.”
It doesn’t matter to Christiansen if he gets a head coaching job or an assistant position.
“I knew when I made the decision to return to the United States that I was going to have to take a step back to take a step forward,” Christiansen said. “This is an opportunity for me to reacclimate myself to the North American game and to establish myself the way I did in Britain.”
Christiansen had the grand tour of Great Britain. He started with in Scotland with the Edinburgh Capitals.
“It was great,” Christiansen said. “In terms of coaching experience, to be 27 years old and to have full personnel control, sign all the players and negotiate all the contracts, was a pretty daunting challenge.”
He moved on to Northern Ireland with the Belfast Giants and guided them to the Elite League title in 2012. The biggest thrill for him was having his team playing the Boston Bruins in an exhibition game in 2011, a few months after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. That game was featured in a story about the Giants in Sports Illustrated.
“I tell everybody that we were up, 1-0, with two minutes left in the second, but I didn’t tell them that we went down, 3-0, after two,” Christiansen said. “It was a phenomenal experience. They played all their big boys because it was the same team that won the Cup, except that [Tuukka] Rask was in the net instead of [Tim] Thomas.”
Christiansen moved to England this season and coached the Sheffield Steelers before being fired in February. He joined the Dundee Stars to help former Union teammate Jeff Hutchins run the team for the remainder of the season.
He was the head coach for Great Britain in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B. Before that, Christiansen was the team’s assistant coach for four seasons.
Christiansen is hoping the experience of coaching in Great Britain will help him in North America.
“Of course, you make mistakes, but that’s part of the maturation process, both as a player and a coach,” Christiansen said. “For me, coming back to North America, I’ve got almost 500 games behind the bench, something that you wouldn’t get in North America, in terms of experience and in terms different styles of hockey and being able to have the experiences that I’ve had.
“When I graduated from Union, I was dead set on going to law school and being an agent. It’s funny how life happens along the way.”