THE Doug Christiansen factor was crucial for Aaron Nell as he made the decision to leave Swindon Wildcats for Elite League outfit Sheffield Steelers.
The Advertiser understands Nell had been close to wrapping up a switch to Christiansen’s Belfast side for the 2013/14 season, but when the head coach departed the Odyssey Arena for Sheffield earlier this month, the deal fizzled out.
Christiansen, Great Britain’s assistant coach, remained keen on the Swindon-born forward and swooped to sign him for the South Yorkshire outfit after the pair had returned from World Championship duty in Budapest.
And now 23-year-old Nell, Swindon’s top goalscorer and skipper in 2012/13, has spoken of his excitement at the prospect of linking up with the ex-Edinburgh Capitals chief.
“I’m going to a very good team in Sheffield, everything up there is about winning and they have a reputation as one of the top teams in the league,” said Nell.
“The coach there (Christiansen) believes I can do a good job and turn into a good player. He knows how to get a team together, likes to coach and wants to help develop me.
“I’m with 20 great hockey players and if I do my job I’ll be playing. I think I’m leaving Swindon a better player than I was when I came back (midway through the 2011/12 season).”
Swindon head coach Ryan Aldridge says he ‘respects’ Nell for taking on the challenge of playing at a higher level and says the forward has the tools to achieve in the top tier.
“As a player you should want to play at a higher level and I respect players who do that more than players who stay where they are because it’s easy,” said Aldridge.
“With Aaron it’s not about money, it’s about becoming a better hockey player. The (Sheffield) organisation has big plans this year and Doug Christiansen will be a great coach for him.
“It’s in his own hands, but of course he can be a success. I think he needs to play with the right players and he needs to improve a few things over the summer, which we will help him do.”
Aldridge added that Nell was ‘irreplaceable’ and called on fans to stop comparing recent signing Matt Towe to the former Coventry forward, who amassed 115 points for Wildcats in the 2012/13 regular season.
“People are comparing Towey to Aaron, but there’s no one to replace him,” said Aldridge. “Towey will be a top Brit and do his job but to compare him to Aaron is so much pressure.
“If anyone’s going to replace Aaron it’s (netminder) Stevie Lyle, both of them can win you a game, so that’s the closest thing we have.”