By Don Stewart
READING, Pa. – An aspiring law student, Doug Christiansen would prefer if his first two seasons of pro hockey could be stricken from the record.
During his first year, he bounced around to four ECHL teams as he battled with coaches who wanted to try to change him from a forward to a defenseman.
His second began with a slap shot to the eye. Christiansen made it through the rest of the season with one team, but his play was stifled by a face shield and blurred vision.
In those two seasons, Christisansen had a combined 23 goals and 22 assists in 130 games.
“I think some of the numbers are misleading,” he said.
Christiansen’s second two seasons have gone much smoother. The 27-year-old Wisconsinite has blossomed into a true power forward, a rough but skilled player who contributes on both ends of the ice.
After an excellent UHL season with Danbury last year, the 6-5, 245-pounder with the face full of stubble was leading the Reading Royals with six goals through the first nine games.
His 31 penalty minutes also became a team high after enforcer Jeff State was loaned to Bridgeport of the AHL on Thursday.
Christiansen missed this weekend’s games against Dayton and South Carolina due to a broken toe, but hoped to be back for Tuesday’s game against Trenton.
“I’m a power forward,” he said. “My job is to go to the net, be physical, score goals. And that’s all I want. I want to be a power forward. Of course, that includes fighting, too. I’m not gonna shy away from the physical part of the game.”
Christiansen was involved in three fights during two games with Dayton last weekend, including one after he nearly crushed Robbie Barker against the boards.
“For me, the role of power forward is something that I think not only can I do, but I can excel at. I think that now, the last two years, I’m getting the opportunity to really do that. I’m trying to give it my best and let the chips fall where they may.”
Like anyone in a Royals uniform, he hopes an AHL opportunity is in his not-so-distant future. While playing for Danbury last season, he had a pair of brief stints with Manchester and Bridgeport.
Christiansen was in camp with Manchester this season. Though he didn’t make the final cut, he came away from the experience feeling as if he could play at that level.
During an intra-squad scrimmage at Manchester, Christiansen knocked out rookie Stuart Kerr with one punch. Typical of his off-ice persona, the two were talking about it 30 minutes afterward.
“He’s a really nice guy off the ice, but on the ice he kind of flips the switch,” said State, who also played in Danbury last season. “He goes hard. He’s tough. He’s gritty.”
“He’s a thinker,” Royals coach Karl Taylor said. “He’s a leader. He leads by example. He’s a guy that’s a real calming presence in the room. He speaks when he needs to, but not too often. He really leads by example, but has a nice presence in the room.”
Before he bounced from Mississippi to Columbia to Augusta to Charlotte as a rookie, Christiansen enjoyed an solid a four-year run at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Union (enrollment 2,439) is the smallest school at the NCAA Division I level.
A defenseman his first two years at Union, Christiansen moved to forward as a junior and had 19 points and 72 penalty minutes in 59 games.
Coming out of University School in Milwaukee, Christiansen had several offers from larger programs. But when the school he’d always dreamed of playing for, Wisconsin, didn’t make him an offer, he decided on Union.
“I’m a competitive person,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit. I loved the school and I was gonna play. It seemed like the right fit for me.
“I couldn’t have had a better experience.”
An all-state defensive end-tight end, Christiansen also entertained some Division I and Division I-AA offers for football. He said his high school football coach advised him to follow the hockey course, though.
In the end, it wasn’t a tough choice. He’s been addicted to hockey since he hit the ice at age 4. “It was something I fell in love with right off the bat,” he said. “It’s just been a part of me as long as I can remember.”
And although he plans to attend law school after his playing days are through, he hopes to be part of the sport for as long as he can.
“For me, the entire point of why you’re playing hockey is to see how good you can be,” he said. “I have a college degree. I’m going to go back to school. But, right now, my focus is on getting as good as I can be so I can move up.”