Christiansen axed as Steelers fearful of falling crowds

Doug Christiansen sacked by Sheffield Steelers. (Picture: Dean Woolley).
Doug Christiansen sacked by Sheffield Steelers. (Picture: Dean Woolley).
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Sheffield Steelers owner Tony Smith has set himself a two-week deadline to find the club’s next head coach after bringing a premature end to Doug Christiansen’s reign yesterday.

Christiansen, 35, was sacked just 10 months after arriving at the Steelers following a run of poor performances that culminated in Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to Nottingham Panthers in the Challenge Cup semi-final.

Smith says the potential of sliding attendances was the root cause of the decision, and that the club have already received a number of applications.

The news comes just days after Christiansen’s assistant coach Marc Lefebvre accepted the post as head coach at Elite League 
rivals Coventry Blaze.

Team captain Steve Goertzen has been placed in temporary charge of team affairs.

“We will look to replace Doug as quickly as possible,” said Smith.

“Do I have anyone in the frame at the moment? No.

“There’s already been several applications in the last hour. I don’t think we’ll have a shortage of applicants.

“I hope that over the next 10 to 14 days we’ll be able to find the right person to take the club forward, at least until the end of the season when we can regroup and decide the best way to go.

“It’s very important we get the next appointment right.”

Steelers are currently third in the Elite League table but have no chance of catching runaway leaders Belfast Giants, who have a 21-point lead on them.

What has compounded the club’s struggles is the fact that Ryan Finnerty, the man who made way for Christiansen at the end of last season, has led unfancied Braehead Clan to second place in the standings.

Smith added: “It’s not a decision that I’ve taken lightly. I sought Doug Christiansen out at the beginning of the season. I wanted him to take over because I believed he was the right guy to take us forward and bring success. It just hasn’t worked.

“This decision is not a knee-jerk reaction to Wednesday’s result, I’ve not been happy with the team’s performance for some time and I decided it was time for a change.

“We are in a results-driven business and because of that we have to do what’s right for the business and replacing Doug right now is the right way to go.

“It’s hard to put a reason on it. Doug’s a very meticulous guy,who works very, very hard. Whether it’s too many systems, I don’t know.

“What I do know is you have to keep fans happy in any sporting organisation because if fans start to vote with their feet then that becomes a very negative thing and I can’t afford for that to happen.

“Right now we’re holding attendances but I need to see those attendances improve. I need to see an exciting brand of hockey every time we turn a team out.”