By Len Bardsley
Feb. 24, 2006
As someone who has spent his life in rinks, Jason Christie never wants to see an old barn fall apart, but when a particular rink was condemned in London, England, the Utah Grizzlies coach knew one team’s bad fortune could be his blessing. Trevor Baker was playing in England, for the first time, but his European experience didn’t last long when his team was forced to suspend operations due to unsafe conditions at the rink.
It didn’t take long for Christie to contact Baker to get the two friends back together.
Baker has joined his old teammate and coach to help make the Grizzlies a formidable foe in the rugged Pacific Division. It was a logical turn for Baker, who spent the previous six seasons with the Peoria Rivermen where Christie was the head coach. It was a clear the Christie-Baker combination was a winning one right from the start. Christie was in his final season as a player and Baker was a rookie when the Rivermen won the Kelly Cup in 2000.
“We have been good friends from day one,” said Baker of Christie. “Our friendship has grown over the years. He is not just a coach, but a friend. I have a lot of respect for him. He has given me chances to move up and played me in key situations and key roles. He asks and demands a lot out of me, he has pushed me well. I have excelled under him.”
It is no surprise Christie and Baker got along so well as teammates and as a player and coach, the two are known as fierce competitors who would never back down from a battle.
“We are pretty much the same person,” said Baker. “We both hate to lose. He showed me that first year, it does not matter if it is the first game or the last game in three nights. You have to show up physically every night.”
Despite the long relationship, Baker felt knowing well in advance the Rivermen franchise was moving up to the AHL he would give Europe a try.
“It was in the back of your head,” said Baker of last season. “What were you going to do? I was in Peoria for six years. I wanted to try something different. I have no regrets whatsoever, every player should experience it. It is great to experience a different culture.”
Baker was enjoying his time in London, but it was evident the team could not take chances with the condition of the rink.
“It was an older arena and a really small venue,” said Baker. “They had a couple of injuries to players and fans and the owners decided to suspend operations. One player got hit into the boards and a screw was sticking out and he needed stitches and a guy took a slap shot and the glass shattered and cut some fans. I wanted to say there. London is a great city.”