Former Red Deer Rebels forward Chris Douglas knows a thing or two about leadership.
The 22-year-old Richmond, B.C. native is in his second season with the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds but unlike his rookie campaign in 2021-22, Douglas now wears the captaincy for his collegiate squad.
He was awarded the ‘C’ by the coaching staff before the beginning of this season and it is not a title he takes lightly.
“As a first year you come in and you’re young and it’s a huge learning experience,” Douglas said.
“In my second year just to shift to having all that responsibility on my shoulders I put the pressure on myself to perform at a high standard and the key thing for me was trying to focus on not really changing anything.
“I think that’s what the coaches have really relayed to me there is a reason why I got named captain and I just have to keep being myself and do what I can for the group.”
Douglas explained his job as a leader has been made easier this year with the plethora of older players and leaders on the team alongside him. It’s been a good challenge and admitted he’s still learning how to perfect it.
Rather than leading with words, Douglas prefers to lead by example with his actions.
“I really believe that if you do ever want to vocalize things to players, you really have to show that through action,” Douglas said.
“Of course, there are times where you do have to vocalize that, and there are times where you have to speak up, but you can’t do that as a leader unless you show people your actions speak louder than words.”
Douglas is no stranger to leadership roles in hockey. During his fifth and final season in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Rebels during the 2020-21 season Douglas wore the assistant captain title, which prepared him for the role at UBC.
“Playing in Red Deer it’s really shaped the type of person I am and just how that organization is run, what they really preach, and what they teach their players is how to be a professional on and off the ice,” he added.
“That’s just carried over here to school and it shows in the classroom as well… There’s so much of that in school if you really want to obtain high grades and still put a really big focus on hockey.
“I look back at my time in Red Deer with fond memories and it’s great to see certain guys I used to play with succeeding right now. I check up on the guys I’ve been playing with and it’s great to see the team’s having a good year.”
Over his time in Red Deer Douglas solidified himself as a power forward. From 2017-2021 in the WHL, he scored 43 goals and 55 assists for 98 points.
A few injuries have sidelined Douglas throughout the first half of his season at UBC but despite that, in 12 games he’s notched two goals and six assists. In his rookie year, he scored 12 goals and added three assists for 15 points in 20 games. His injuries have been a huge learning experience mentally and he hopes to grow from them and gain more mental toughness.
His play has helped launch the Thunderbirds to fifth place in the Canada West Division with a record of 10-6-2. Despite their placement in the standings, they expect to win.
“This year we have a really young team. I think we have 10 or 11 first years so it’s been a really good learning experience for our group. We have a lot of skill and a huge opportunity this year and over the next couple of years just to build a solid foundation,” he said.
U Sports he said has been different in many ways than his time in the WHL. While playing junior hockey that’s the only thing on your mind day in and day out but in university, he said you learn life balance. How to handle yourself on and off the ice as well as in the classroom are among those life skills.
His ultimate goal is to play professional hockey and will play out as many years of eligibility at UBC as possible to make that happen. He’s currently enrolled in business school and once he’s done his playing career he hopes to work in the accounting or finance industry.
What drew Douglas to UBC was the opportunity to play close to home but also the level of education.
“I wanted to set myself up for life after hockey… We were lucky enough to go to nationals last year so I got some experience going deep into the playoffs and going to a national championship. So far it’s been a great experience,” Douglas added.