CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) complete their coaching staff with the addition of Kyle Christensen as the team’s Assistant Coach, IceRays general manager Pat Dunn announced today. The hiring follows the departure of former assistant coach Michael Benedict to the Minnesota Wilderness.
“Kyle has shown a great deal of persistence and showed us his passion for the game when he assisted us in our two camps,” said Dunn. “Brad found a lot of similarities between he and Kyle as they both come from the same background with fathers that are career hockey coaches. We are pleased with the addition of Kyle.”
Christensen, 31, joins the IceRays following five seasons as a coach in multiple midget hockey programs, most recently as the Head Coach and Director of Youth Hockey Programs for the Flint Jr. Firebirds of the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League (LCAHL) and National Junior Prospects Hockey League (NJPHL) during the 2015-16 season, placing fifth in NJPHL play and appearing the NJPHL Playoffs. He also served as the Co-Head Coach of the Michigan Warriors AAA program in 2014-15, helping lead both the Midget Minor and Midget Major programs to their respective NJPHL Finals and claiming the championship with the Midget Major team, as well as assisted with the Lansing Capitals AAA program formerly of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) in the 2012-13 campaign and helped lead the program a Dixon Cup Finals appearances before joining the Lansing Spartans AAA program the following year as an assistant coach.
The Lansing, Mich. native began his coaching career in the 2011-12 season with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies formerly of the Midwest Elite Hockey League (MWEHL), serving as an assistant coach under his father and renowned USA Hockey coach, Terry Christensen, who now works with the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) as their Vice President after one season as General Manager. Like Flynn, Kyle comes from a rich hockey coaching family and has learned directly from the former NHL player and coach with the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), Czech Republic National Team, Michigan State University, multiple ECHL franchises, and the Detroit Freeze of the NAHL in 1993-94.
Kyle and Terry also work together at Terry’s own hockey program, the Christensen Hockey School, and within the same parent organization in Flint last season. That amount of time with hockey minds presents a lot of experience to grasp ahead of Kyle’s own coaching career.
“One of the things I learned from my dad is it’s not who you are at the start of the season but who you are come January and February,” said Kyle. “You have to have a lot of patience, much more patience than what you did as a player. You have to understand your surroundings as well as you athletes. You need to learn how to persevere in all situations, not just on the bench but in the classroom. You’re ultimately a teacher in my eyes as a coach. You’re always teaching.”
Kyle Christensen’s journey through coaching and athletic experiences have led him to work with multiple prominent hockey figures, including former Detroit Red Wings center Kris Draper, co-owner CORE Sports Fitness and worked with Christensen prior to his first coaching position, 921-game NHL veteran Igor Larianov, who also assisted in Oakland, and the late Dean Dixon, who started the Lansing Capitals AAA program. Combined with the multiple hockey camps and schools he’s worked with as well as his own junior hockey career, the wealth of knowledge attained in those years by Christensen has paid off to form his coaching philosophy basis and a renewed passion for the game.
“When you surround yourself with good hockey people, there’s no better business in the world. I think I’ve done that by surrounding myself with guys like Pat Dunn and [Head Coach] Brad Flynn. I met [Assistant General Manager] Cassidy Lange and [Director of Scouting] Mike Mondoux down in St. Louis. Sometimes it’s hard to come across in the game of hockey.”
Christensen and Flynn share more than a few similarities in their professional careers beyond growing up in very cultivated hockey families. The two are around the same age, both were scrappy, energy players during their playing careers, and both possess high motivation and ambition when it comes to coaching, exemplified with Christensen’s decision to make the commute to St. Louis, Mizz. and Chesapeake, Va. from Detroit, Mich. while bringing players all for the chance to earn an interview and the position.
Outside of the obvious, the two share a deeper commonality that sold both coaches on wanting to work with each other: loyalty.
“[Brad] kept talking to me about loyalty. That is a big thing for me. The three most important things in hockey can be loyalty, loyalty and loyalty. At the end of the day, if you’re not loyal to somebody you burn bridges. That was the final nail in the coffin that I believed in him as a coach and we have the same beliefs. He has a great presence on the ice. He’s a person I want to be around. Overall, it’s a really good situation.”
“Kyle is going to be a huge asset to our organization,” said Flynn. “Kyle has good experience coaching and recruiting. He will have a huge responsibility with day-to-day development and working with the defense in games. I’m really looking forward to working with Kyle. He is going to bring a lot of experience and a huge work ethic that will not only help me as a coach but also our players. They’ll benefit greatly from working with Kyle on a daily basis.”
Christensen will join the IceRays at the end of July during the IceRays Main Camp in Fraser, Mich. before permanently moving to Corpus Christi at the start of August. After two camps and a lot of conversations with the new IceRays Hockey Operations Staff, Christensen has a good feeling about this season.
“We’ve got a good core group of guys that I’ve met and saw at camp,” said Christensen. “Time will tell, but I believe we’ll be a contender and reach the playoffs. That’s not a promise, but I believe in our head coach. I’m willing to follow his lead, and I’m excited for the season. We’ll do our best to bring a playoff team to Corpus Christi.”
The IceRays open the 2016-17 home schedule on Friday, Oct. 14 against the Odessa Jackalopes at the American Bank Center. Purchase your 2016-17 season ticket membership ahead of opening night! Reserve yours by contacting the IceRays Front Office at 361-814-PUCK. In addition, stay connected with the IceRays on Facebook (/CorpusChristiIceRays), Twitter (@goicerays), YouTube (IceRays TV), Instagram (CorpusChristiIceRays), Vine (@goicerays), and Periscope (@goicerays).